The big and the beautiful

Valerie Starrett is not afraid to use what she calls the f word. While others tip-toe around it with words like heavy and plus-sized, “There’s nothing wrong with being fat,” she said.

She and Pamela Heilman are the driving force behind the newly-formed Kitsap BBW (Big Beautiful Women), a social club set on shifting society’s perception of fat people.

Starrett moved from Seattle to Bremerton a little more than two years ago.

“Living in Seattle is like living the cast of ‘Friends.’ Everyone is thin, wears black and goes rock climbing on the weekends,” she said.

She soon noticed noticed the peninsula lacked a support system for people struggling to accept themselves. While there are bigger people here in Kitsap, there is less tolerance for them and more self-deprecating remarks among them.

So Starrett and Heilman took what the Seattle BBW has been doing and applied it here. The group has an extensive Web site filled to the brim with gatherings, projects and forums.

This month’s events included a discussion on body image, a weekend at the beach and delivering homemade cookies to local police and fire stations. A dinner is held the first Friday of the month.

Members have a username soon becomes how they are known in person and on the Web. Starrett is Jade, while Heilman is known as Jazzy. There are no dues and little if any cost to attend events.

The club encourages people to live their life instead of worrying about how big their thighs are. When Heilman attended her first BBW meeting, she called it an eye-opening experience.

“I’m no longer the biggest person in the room, you’re just one of the crowd,” she said.

It’s not just women in the group either. Men participate as well and romances have been known to blossom.

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