In A Nutshell
Girls as young as five years old are sent to fattening farms in Mauritania where they are forced to consume thousands of calories each day. This tradition is known as leblouh, a grooming program for girls so they can find better husbands in the future.
The Whole Bushel
In a world where size-zero models are being worshiped and the global weight-loss industry will be worth a projected $586 billion in 2014, it might be shocking to know that in a small country located in Africa, super obesity is considered super sexy.
Mauritania is home to around 3.2 million people, and one-third of that population belongs to the ancient Moor, the tribe that practices leblouh. What exactly is leblouh? Well, imagine a foie gras farm but instead of the farmers force-feeding geese or ducks, you have an elderly woman force-feeding girls as young as five years old. Leblouh is not only practiced in Mauritania, but other West African countries as well.
On a normal day at a fattening camp, the girls eat two kilos of pounded millet, two cups of butter, and five gallons of camel milk. If the girls refuse to eat, they are beaten. If they can’t keep the food down, they are fed their own vomit.
So why are families still sending their daughters to fattening farms? As the head of the Association of Women Heads of Households, Mint Ely, puts it, “In Mauritania, a woman’s size indicates the amount of space she occupies in her husband’s heart.” As in many lesser-developed countries, a wife is her husband’s property and as such, she is a symbol of her husband’s wealth. The fatter the wife, the richer the husband.
But this sort of thinking is slowly dying with the help of government campaigns, education, and some Western influence. Although there are some families who still insist on the old beauty ideal, some have turned to modern steroids to fatten up their daughters.