Tankah, Mexico In a world enthralled by thin, perhaps no place is more slanted toward the slender or more daunting for the double-chinned than the beach.
No more. The beach is being made safe for the amply built with the opening of what claims to be the world's first "size-friendly, all inclusive beach resort." At the Freedom Paradise resort south of Cancun, the motto is "Live Large, Live Free!"
The resort, which formally opens June 15, targets people afraid to go out on the sand with a few extra pounds, or a few extra dozens of pounds. No more enduring cruel jokes on the beach, or wisecracks from the staff.
"We have hired personnel of all sizes, and have specially trained our slim staff, because there's a lot of discrimination in everyday life," said Jurriaan Klink, commercial director of the resort, about 85 miles south of Cancun. "There are a lot of people who put off vacations, saying 'I'll buy that bikini when I lose 15 pounds.' We say, why wait to lose weight, when you can enjoy life now?"
That sounds good to Angel Alonzo, a rotund 28-year-old from Cancun frolicking in one of the hotel's four pools, which boast wide steps instead of flimsy aluminum pool ladders.
"It's marvelous because it's not just for one size. Everybody fits here," said Alonzo, one of the few pre-opening guests.
Alonzo's biggest gripe about regular hotels are the flimsy beach chairs: "I don't know why they make them out of such cheap plastic. They just collapse under you."
Freedom Paradise has big, wide benches made of tree trunks, four-foot-wide chaise lounges, and 26-inch wide dining room chairs. All the furniture is reinforced and made of wood.
No more getting stuck in a chair with armrests, because there are no armrests. No more getting stared at on crowded beaches, because the hotel's Tankah beach is 250 yards long and relatively secluded.
Cindy Sabo, spokeswoman for the Sacramento, Calif.-based National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, NAAFA, said the beach could be both a place of anxiety and freedom.
"One of the most empowering things I ever did was when I turned 40, I bought a two-piece bathing suit and went out in it. My husband thinks I look cute, and I feel good," said Sabo, who places herself in the "oversize" category at about 400 pounds.
She recalled a less pleasant experience on a recent vacation in Hawaii.
"We had some terrible experiences with some other tourists," she recalled. "Especially some people from Asian countries would walk right up to you on the beach, poke you in the belly and make some rude joke."