I happen to live in a country where the bigger you are, the better. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. It’s a sign of prosperity – you can afford to eat! I also live in a country where the dress code is conducive to unnoticeable weight gain. Take the common wrapper for instance. It’s a piece of cloth, 3 yards long. It’s standard wear for women. Skinny ones, fat ones (of which there are very few), and pregnant ones (of which there are very many). One size does fit all. Now consider the smock or baby doll style top. Standard cover for the upper half. Can you see what I’m getting at? One could easily gain 10 pounds wearing these clothes and have no clue!
And if that’s not enough, one is encouraged to be big. In fact if one embarks on any type of weight loss effort and does begin to lose weight, he or she is constantly asked if he is sick. Why would you want to lose weight on purpose? Take Hannatu for instance. Remember the crying bride from my first post? Well Hannatu helps me in the kitchen. She worked for us in Maradi and when we moved, I hated to lose her. But I was not interested in being responsible for a single girl in Niamey. Besides, her fiance’, Yahaya, worked at our cake bakery in Maradi. This past year, we took over a bread bakery here in Niamey. We needed someone to bake the bread. Yahaya knew how. I was thrilled, knowing that they were soon to be married and he would bring her to Niamey as well. She’s back, and I’m happy. I think she’s happy too. I taught her how to make things like tortillas, bagels, pizza, lasagna, enchilada’s etc, and wasn’t really interested in starting all over. Back to big… We were working together in the kitchen yesterday, and I was telling her about the weight reduction plan Neal and I were on. Her enviously slim self replied. “Why? I can see you’ve already reduced. You’re good like this.” Now one might think that to be a nice complement. But you didn’t see her body language. While telling me how good I looked, she assumed a sort of sumo-wrestler stance – arms and legs straddled indicating there was too much fat in the way for them to hang loosely. Enough encouragement to make one forget the reduction plan and run straight to Taco Bell – if in fact there was one available.
And then there was the ministry team that came to visit several years ago. (Not mentioning names, you know who you are!) On the team there were some generously bodied ladies, myself included. We took the team to a village we hadn’t been to before to ride camels. Some of the ladies in the village were chattering among themselves. Nothing strange about that. But one lady finally approached me, and asked me a very sincere question. I started laughing so hard, I couldn’t even translate it to the bewildered team around me. This lady was looking around at all of us and said, “Where can we get some of that medicine that makes you fat?”
Such are the trials and tribulations I face at trying to be thin in a ‘wannabe fat world.’