"Fat," says Lisbeth Fisher, "is not a four-letter word."

Eleven years ago the 5-foot-4-inch, 275-pound New Yorker thought it was.

"I had confidence in my ability as a top-notch legal secretary, but I had no confidence socially. Like any nice person I was brought up to believe that fat is ugly.

"If a man liked me I thought there was something wrong with him. I felt like I had no rights. Who was I, a fat person with no willpower, to have rights? People would ridicule me, and I'd let them."

But two things changed her mind.

Metabolic tests showed that her body burned an exceptionally low 750 calories a day. "So my weight wasn't just a question of willpower." And, in 1979, she become a charter member of the National Association to Aid Fat Americans (NAAFA).

"NAAFA changed my life, raised my consciousness and my self-confidence," says Fisher, now executive secretary of the "fat pride" group.

"Why should I let people walk all over me? And who says fat women can't be beautiful? Men are so attracted to me now I'm at no loss for dates. I feel good about myself.

"I used to say that if there was a magic potion that would make me thin, I'd take it like a shot, for vanity's sake. Now the only reason I'd do it would be for comfort and health.

"I've reached a point where I want to look nice, but it's not the most important thing to me anymore. I love my work and I love my life."