Not Everyone Wants to be Skinny

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In America, it's hard to avoid the overly skinny models advertised in magazines and television. Although in the U.S. girls feel the pressure to be thin with nicely toned bodies, that isn't true in every culture. In the northwestern part of Africa is a country that values women on the opposite end of the scale. Mauritanian women are forced from an early age to consume up to 16,000 calories every day because men are blissfully drawn to their stretch marks, rolls of fat, and a hefty waistline. In Mauritian the obesity of their wives was seen as symbols of their wealth in their historical culture and since women here typically marry in their early teens, obese girls also have a more mature figure. But there are numerous health problems that also affect these women.
It is reported that although obesity is the standard of beauty in this country, many women that have decided to go along the career track verses marriage and thus have preferred a slimmer shape as well where their mobility isn't limited. While some women still favor this less than obese look, it is said that the America supermodel size of 0 will never be the Mauritanian average.

Force-feeding is now said to be a more uncommon practice in Mauritania, but the full figures are still desired.


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Can I just say whoa? When I read the part that they are forced to consume 16,000 calories my eyeballs became saucers. It is unbelievable how two cultures can be so different. Even though some Mauritanian women are choosing a slimmer shape, it's still the polar opposite of the culture in the United States. Here in the US it's all about skinny-toned, well I'm sorry to say but the majority of girls don't have that perfect skinny-toned desired look. I wish everyday that our culture wasn't so warped around the idea that thin is the in. There are just as many beautiful full girls (and guys). I just feel like those people are never actually given the chance to be known. Because if you think within your friend group, you don't think, "oh she/he's not that good looking or she/he's not the desired body size" you just think, they are my friend and I like them because of how they are, not what they look like. Kudos to the Mauritanian people.

It truly is unbelievable how different cultures have so many different mindsets, whether it's politics, religion, or physical appearance. I think that wherever your body is healthiest at is where it should be. Women shouldn't be too heavy or too skinny. I have a friend who is very thin and every time someone says something about weight or eating too much she'll chime in with a comment like "yea, I need to lose a couple pounds myself." which is ridiculous. I think that certain ideals of physical appearance, held by different cultures can definitely be a bad thing.

Wow. I agree with yuxxx664. That's so extreme! But one from their culture might think the practices of the desirable women in our culture is even more extreme. Can you imagine being from a culture where 16,000 calories a day is what's considered attractive and coming here and seeing models who eat essentially nothing? It would be mind-boggling. Great post, very interesting read/watch.

This is a great resemblence of how beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that society can greatly change that view. It also shows how vastly different societys can be and how money and wealth is the biggest reason for this. If more people in Mauritania were wealthy, I believe you would start to see more people looking towards the slimmer body image. In the end, I think this difference really is a result of wealth and money.

I am in shock. 16,000 calories a day? I don't even eat that much in a week! But that kind of force-feeding must result in terrible health conditions. However, not eating enough and starving yourself to be skinny also results in sickness. It's a shame that people don't look at a woman and say "she is healthy, what a beautiful woman". And then again, why doesn't society care more about men's looks? They focus much more on women. Very interesting reading material/video.

I actually don't think the women in this country are that different from the women in America. To us, as Americans, it seems like these women are crazy to be gorging themselves with food to become obese. If you think about it though, don't we do the same thing here, except we starve ourselves to get our desired figure? The women in this country are impeding their health to attain beauty, but we do the same here; women in American go to tanning salons even though there is a risk for skin cancer and women also undergo dangerous surgeries to look more attractive. So just because it seems crazy to us to eat 16,000 calories a day, the women in Mauritania probably think throwing up to be skinny is just as insane.

In my opinion I think it is crazy how you can go to a place, where more or less we are very similar at an evolutionary standpoint, but yet the culture is so completely different. Most people here would never find that to be normal but the fact that even at one point, they were force fed, even if they are not now is a crazy idea. But yet when you think about it as pointed out in another response, people here starve themselves in order to obtain their desired figure. Imagine what they would say to that?! Yet I think it is very interesting how each culture is exactly that, its completely own culture. And yet again we find that everyone has their own idea of what is attractive.

It is so interesting to compare standards of beauty across different cultures or time periods. At one poiunt in US history, it was more attractive to be plumper and pale because it showed wealth that women were able to stay inside and not work and eat as much as they please. Now the opposite is complete with women always striving to be so skinny and spending hours in the tanning salon. It is interesting to think what kinds of standards will be beautiful in the future.

I think it is truly all about society, and economics does play a huge part in what we perceive to be beautiful, which I think is a totally weird thing about human behavior. Because wealth is a symbol of success in most cultures, it may also reflect people's ability to provide for offspring which is something that we are biologically wired to pay attention to and be attracted to. With that being said, in a country like Africa, it is not surprising that obesity is seen as a sign of wealth. There are many impoverished people in Africa, so having much to eat must be a sign of success in that country. In America, the attractiveness of the thin physique possibly stems to the fact that wealthier people have more time, and resources to get in shape. Just like how being tan is also attractive in our country because it shows that we have the money to go on nice vacations. It's funny how everything stems down to money, money, money. But I guess that's just the way it is.

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This page contains a single entry by macdo261 published on April 6, 2012 4:16 PM.

Skin and bones is beautiful? was the previous entry in this blog.

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