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Freedom for plus-size travelers

New resort caters to the needs of overweight people
/ Source: The Associated Press

Kelly Durst had always dreamed of going to the beach and having the water caress her sunburned toes. But at 287 pounds, she was always too self-conscious to don swimwear and get a tan. Until now.

FREEDOM PARADISE, a 112-room resort south of Cancun, Mexico, is the world’s first resort designed for the obese. The facilities include wide steps with railings to get into and out of swimming pools, instead of thin ladders. The bathrooms have walk-in showers — with no tubs — and many showers have benches to enable people to shower while sitting down.

The rooms have extra-wide doors, king-size beds and armless furniture designed specifically for overweight people. Chairs are twice as wide as normal and hammocks are made of stronger fabric. And the gift shop features 5XL polo shirts sporting the resort’s logo: Live Large, Live Free.

“Plus-size people want to have fun. They want to go out to restaurants, to the movies, to the beach,” said Jurriaan Klink, operations manager at the resort.

InsertArt(2030064)“But they always have to think: ‘Will the chairs be big enough? Are they going to stare at me when I get into my bikini? Can I take a second helping of food without being snickered at?’ Now they don’t have to worry anymore.”

Klink and his partner, Julio Rinco, bought two hotels on a secluded beach in Mexico and spent $2 million renovating them to accommodate the obese. They opened the resort in July and expect to break even as early as February.

“This is a market that’s bursting to go out. Most of these people have been postponing their fun activities until they lose weight,” said Klink. “Now they can have a life and have fun while they are plus-size.”

The staff goes through mandatory sensitivity training to ensure guests feel comfortable. As part of the training, they watch the movie “Beauty and The Beast” to learn that people should not be judged on their appearance.

“Such training is of essence, because people can be physically comfortable and still miserable if they are emotionally uncomfortable,” said Kelly Bliss, a fitness instructor for large people, who plans to visit the resort this month.

During a recent visit to the resort, not many large guests were seen. But resort officials said they expect more plus-size people as word gets out.

Bliss is one of many people who have reservations at Freedom Paradise for this year or early next year.

Thirty five-year-old Durst, who has not been to a beach in 22 years, is another one planning to go to the resort and said she can’t wait to get a tan. “I’m just waiting for my husband to get some time off.”

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