American Samizdat

Tuesday, July 03, 2007. *
NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania: At the Olympic Sports Stadium in this capital city, a collection of dun-colored buildings rising mirage-like from the vast Sahara, about a dozen women clad in tennis shoes and sandals circled the grandstands one evening in late June, puffing with each step.

Between pants came brief explanations for their labors. "Because I am fat," said one, a dark-eyed 34-year-old close to 91 kilograms, or 200 pounds. Another, a 30-year-old in bright pink sneakers, said, "For myself, for my health and to be skinny."

It is a typically Western après-work scene. But this is the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, the mirror opposite of the West on questions of women's weight. To men here, fat is sexy. And in this patriarchal region, many Mauritanian women do everything possible - and have everything possible done to them - to put on the kilos.

Now Mauritania's government is out to change that. In recent years, television commercials and official pronouncements have promoted a new message: that being fat leads to diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure and other woes. The joggers outside the Olympic stadium testify to their impact: Until lately, a Mauritanian woman in jogging shoes was about as common as a camel in stiletto heels.

But in other respects, the message faces an uphill run. A 2001 government survey of 68,000 women found that one in five between ages 15 and 49 had been deliberately overfed. And nearly 70 percent - and even more among teenagers - said they did not regret it.

"That is a bad sign, especially among the younger generation," said Maye Mint Haidy, a government statistician who also runs a nongovernmental women's organization.

Other cultures prize corpulent women. But Mauritania may be unique in the lengths it has gone to achieve its vision of female beauty. For decades, the Mauritanian version of a Western teenager's crash diet was a crash feeding program, designed to create girls obese enough to display family wealth and epitomize the Mauritanian ideal.

Centuries-old poems glorify women immobilized by fat, moving so slowly they seemed to stand still, unable to hoist themselves onto camels without the aid of men's willing hands.

Girls as young as 5 and as old as 19 were forced to drink up to 18 liters, or five gallons, of fat-rich camel's or cow's milk daily, aiming for silvery stretch marks on their upper arms. If a girl refused or vomited, the village weight-gain specialist might squeeze her foot between sticks, pull her ear, pinch her inner thigh, bend her finger backward or force her to drink her own vomit. In extreme cases, girls died.

The practice was known as gavage, after the French technique of force-feeding geese to obtain foie gras. "There isn't a woman close to my age who hasn't gone through this, maybe not with the torture, but with the milk and other things," said Yenserha Mint Mohamed Mahmoud, 47, the government's director for promotion of women.

Mahmoud insists that the use of torture has died out, though some say it lingers in remote areas. Still, Mauritania remains saddled with an alarming number of women weighing 100 to 150 kilograms, according to the Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Family and Children.

The same 2001 survey that documented overfeeding estimated that two in five women were overweight - remarkable for sub-Saharan Africa. According to the International Obesity Task Force, a research and advocacy group based in London, Mauritania has the region's fourth-highest percentage of overweight women. Government officials blame a concerted effort by all but the poorest families to pump girls full of milk, cream, butter, couscous and other calorie-rich foods.

read more

Here in the land of the free it seems people choose to pack on the lard, we have no tradition of force feeding; unless one includes the giving and consuming of calories as an attitude adjustment tool, perhaps one of self "medication".

U.S Stats

Q: How many adults age 20 and older are overweight (BMI > 25)?

A: About one-third of U.S. adults are overweight.[6]

All adults: 68.5 million (34.1 percent)
Women: 57.5 million (28.6 percent)
Men: 79.8 million (39.7 percent)

* The statistics presented here are based on the following definitions unless otherwise specified: healthy weight = BMI > 18.5 to < 25; overweight = BMI > 25 to < 30; obesity = BMI > 30; and extreme obesity = BMI > 40.

Q: How many adults age 20 and older are obese (BMI > 30)?

A: Nearly one-third of U.S. adults are obese.[6]

All adults: 64.7 million (32.2 percent)
Women: 34.6 million (33.2 percent)
Men: 30.1 million (31.1 percent)

Q: How many adults age 20 and older are at a healthy weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9)?

A: Less than half of U.S. adults are at a healthy weight.[7]

All adults: 66.3 million (32.9 percent)
Women: 37.2 million (35.4 percent)
Men: 29.2 million (30.4 percent)

Q: How has the prevalence of overweight and obesity in adults changed over the years?

A: The prevalence has steadily increased over the years among both genders, all ages, all racial/ethnic groups, all educational levels, and all smoking levels.[8] From 1960 to 2002, the prevalence of overweight increased from 44.8 to 65.2 percent in U.S. adults age 20 to 74.[7] The prevalence of obesity during this same time period more than doubled among adults age 20 to 74 from 13.3 to 30.5 percent, with most of this rise occurring in the past 20 years.[7] From 1988 to 2002, the prevalence of extreme obesity increased from 2.9 to 4.9 percent, up from 0.8 percent in 1960. [3,7,9] A recent Government study found no significant changes in the prevalence of overweight and obesity among women, leading investigators to conclude that increases in body weight may be leveling off in this group.[6]

Q: What is the prevalence of overweight or obesity in minorities?

A: The age-adjusted prevalence of overweight or obesity (BMI > 25) in racial/ethnic minorities—especially minority women—is generally higher than in whites in the United States.[6]

Non-Hispanic Black Women: 81.6 percent
Mexican-American Women: 75.4 percent
Non-Hispanic White Women: 58 percent

Non-Hispanic Black Men: 69.1 percent
Mexican-American Men: 76.1 percent
Non-Hispanic White Men: 70.6 percent
(Statistics are for populations age 20 and older.)

Studies using this definition of overweight and obesity provide ethnicity-specific data only for these three racial-ethnic groups. Studies using definitions of overweight and obesity from NHANES II have reported a high prevalence of overweight and obesity among Hispanics and American Indians. The prevalence of overweight and obesity in Asian Americans is lower than in the population as a whole.[1]

Q: What is the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents?

A: While there is no generally accepted definition for obesity as distinct from overweight in children and adolescents, the prevalence of overweight* is increasing for children and adolescents in the United States. Approximately 18.8 percent of children (age 6 to 11) and 17.4 percent of adolescents (age 12 to 19) were overweight in 2003 to 2004. In addition, 37.2 percent of children and 34.3 percent of adolescents in these age categories were either at risk for overweight or overweight (BMI for age at 85th percentile or higher).[6]

Full disclosure: I am one well marbled nearly lard ass myself. Fat 'round my middle. And leaner than the the majority of folks I see.

And you? Waddle your honest self assessment over to the comments section, if you dare.

It's ALL good.
posted by m at 7:20 PM
Post a Comment

Site Meter

Creative Commons License