Heart Searching: Plumping for partners on a large scale: Size isn't everything but big can be beautiful, says Barbara Lamb

WHILE most women are desperately dieting and exercising their bodies in the relentless pursuit of slimness, no doubt in many cases with men in mind, it comes as a surprise to learn that while thin may be in, there is a growing band of men who prefer the well-endowed, sometimes the plumper the better. While most of these men are slim, they hanker after rounded behinds, plump tummies and curvy hips.

Sandy Millington, a fattie herself, seems to have found a way of bringing plump women out of their shells. She receives around 20 phone calls a day, more than half from men who would not give a thin woman a second glance. It is 'Plump Partners' they are looking for, an apt name for the dating agency which she runs from her home in the small Welsh town of Holywell in Clwyd. She wants to encourage overweight women to come out of hiding and socialise, for many are apologetic or embarrassed by their size and afraid to be seen in a club or disco. Her fiance, 29-year-old Brian Poole, whom she met through Plump Partners, is a lean 6ft 1in. He loves her just as she is and says he would refuse to let her go on a diet even if she wanted to.

In spite of the best efforts of the slimming industry over the past decade to persuade us that thin is desirable, a number of women are unwilling or unable to conform. The proportion of overweight females has increased from 32 to 40 per cent and half of all men are overweight compared with 39 per cent in 1980.

Divorced and a single parent, and having tried the conventional ways of meeting people, Ms Millington enrolled with a dating agency describing herself as medium build. 'Everyone who rang up,' she says, 'wanted to talk about my weight. It was always what was my dress size, what my measurements were. Nobody wanted to know about me as a person - we never got beyond the size stage really.'

Today Sandy Millington, 35, is happy with her weight, a curvy 14 stone. She is 5ft 7in and a size 20, though it is well disguised in a long top over calf-length skirt. 'Finding trendy clothes to fit is the worst part,' she says, although she stresses to her women members the importance of making the best of themselves despite their inches. She has had around 3,000 members on her books since she set up Plump Partners in 1986, and the endless inquiries from men was a revelation to her. Membership is pounds 45 for six months or pounds 75 for the year.

Here the men who enrol know what they are looking for, and discussion about size and weight doesn't come into it; though rare, there's the occasional skinny woman in search of a large man. It is an agency where plump people can feel comfortable and know they belong without having to lose two stone. The emphasis, she makes clear, is on personality and common interests. No size is barred - members of both sexes are simply asked to fill in which weight category they prefer: 10 to 15 stone, 15 to 20 stone or over 20. Surprisingly, most men go for the middle one.

Many women join as a result of having been rejected by other agencies as too hard to place, and it is Ms Millington's job to build up their confidence. 'A good many people are very reluctant to admit that they're fat, and to actually own up to it or put it on a piece of paper is a major step.' She doubts that her agency would have been so successful had she herself not experienced what it was like to feel large and unwanted. Members are reassured when they learn of her statistics and can immediately identify. Ms Millington offers a very personal service, encouraging both men and women to give her feedback, and has become a sort of agony aunt to her members. Some women, however, still opt for a well-built partner, feeling too conspicuous in the company of a skinny man.

Ms Millington, who used to suffer from bulimia - the eating disorder highlighted by the Princess of Wales recently - says her weight has gone up and down over the years, once tipping the scales at 19 stone. She is convinced that as many as 20 per cent of men in the UK prefer big women, but is annoyed that being large often becomes a health issue. 'Largeness,' she maintains, 'doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with being unfit.'

John Honiball, 31, a computer analyst from Bristol, would not entirely agree. For while he joined Plump Partners looking for a woman who is 'nicely plump', he believes it becomes unhealthy to be too overweight just as it is to be too slim. A thin 5ft 10in, he says: 'I've always found myself attracted to larger ladies. It's off-putting for a woman to be on an endless diet.' His ideal looks? The comedienne Dawn French.

Ms Millington reaffirms that once these women realise they can be desirable, they become more content with the way they are and grow in confidence. Their dress sense improves, they start bothering with their hair, and it gives them a new lease of life. 'Like most people, many large women have other problems to cope with, emotional or financial, which they often mistakenly blame on their size. They believe that once they go on a diet and become thin everything is going to be wonderful, but this is rarely the case.'

Jane Summers, 35, a new member, bears this out. Deputy head of a special school in Guildford, Surrey, she is 17 stone, 5ft 7in and size 24. She went on a crash diet four years ago, managed to get down to 10 stone and fit into a size 12, and admits to being terribly unhappy. As a large woman she can be bubbly and extrovert, but thin, she found she was unable to converse, or form relationships. 'I felt so inhibited,' she says. 'I was no longer me, I withdrew and became very quiet and self-conscious.'

Robert Grant, 48, a scientist, 5ft 8in, 11-and-a-half stone and living in London, joined Plump Partners looking for someone who is big but doesn't mind. 'Most women I have taken out have had complexes about their size. It's not easy to boost a woman's confidence when over the years fashion and the media have tried to point her in the other direction.

'I know there are quite a few guys like me who actually prefer larger women. Men go for big bosoms, why shouldn't the rest of the body be in line with that?' His own preference is for the statuesque, 5ft 10in and around 14 stone.

Robert did try to meet his ideal woman through conventional agencies, but when he listed his preference for a well-built partner he did not get a single reply. 'That surprised me,' he says. 'Well I'm 48, presentable and solvent, there should have been a lot of women out there.' But he was told it was because he specified big build, and most tubbies are loath to admit it on the form. 'I don't think large women are necessarily happier. It's a great pity: they should be.'

Plump Partners: 0352 715909

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering