Cultural ideas of what is desirable and attractive have important implications in the development of body image and drive behaviors. The current investigation studied traditional practices related to the development of overweight and obesity in the Moroccan Sahraoui ethnic group.
249 urban Saharan women, between the ages of 15 and 70 years, in Laayoune provinces participated in sample surveys conducted between October 2001 and April 2002. Body weight and height were measured. All subjects completed a diet and lifestyle questionnaire at recruitment, giving the details on traditional practices used to gain body weight.
Results showed that 79% of women are overweight and 49% are obese. The overweight and obese subjects considered their body weight socially acceptable. 88.2% of them desired to gain weight in the past and reported that they have used either overeating during at least 40 days with total physical inactivity or the consumption of special traditional meat (additional eating before the initial meals (Aajna) or additional eating after the evening meal (Lahssa). To become rapidly obese, some of the Sahraoui women used drugs inducing weight gain as a side effect. This behavior is currently observed among 58.3% of women with normal weight, among 6.7% of overweight and among 5% of obese women.
The Sahraoui women, a Moroccan ethnic group, are characterized by very high levels of obesity. This is related to the maintenance of traditional values about the desirability of body size and to traditional practices used to induce body weight gain.
Mohamed Rguibi, Rekia Belahsen, Chouaib University, Morocco