Weight Consciousness

In Peru, women with curvy body types are celebrated and generally more attractive to men. As my local friend described it, it is almost a primal instinct to be attracted to woman with big hips as they are seen as more fit to bear children. Traveling in the surrounding towns of Trujillo, I have noticed that woman traditionally wear these beautiful woven skirts. These skirts are layered on top of other skirts in such a fashion that it makes them look significantly wider, not slimmer. This cultural style of dress provides further evidence that woman with wider hips are seen as more attractive.

Traditional dresses worn at parties often have an exaggerated number of layers. This skirt of 24 layers weighs approximately 24 kilos.

Traditional dresses worn at parties often have an exaggerated number of layers. This skirt of 24 layers weighs approximately 24 kilos.

One morning when walking through Trujillo, I saw a woman and her two children sitting on the sidewalk next to a scale that read, “controle su peso” or “check your weight” for the price of 0.50 soles ($0.15). Perplexed by the idea of someone making ends meet by charging those passing by for the chance to step on a scale, I came to learn that this was not an isolated incident. There are many “scale vendors” sprinkled throughout Trujillo, in part because the majority of people do not have access to a scale. I started asking why this may the case as I began drawing comparisons to the weight-obsessed culture I come from. 

What are the implications of living in a society where most people do not check their weight regularly? On a positive note, people do not over-zealously obsess over their weight, which could be better for self-image. However, one major concern with this form of weight maintenance, is that while knowledge alone can curb curiosity, just knowing one’s weight is unlikely to change lifestyle habits such as modifying one’s diet or exercising more. These scales are a positive shift towards “weight consciousness”. In Peru, where nearly half of the country is overweight or obese (1) and nearly 10% of the population has diabetes mellitus, (2) more preventative tactics and health education are necessary to reverse these increasing trends.

Sugar, sugar and more sugar. Amongst the scale vendors you will find many food vendors, most of whom sell sugary snacks (such as these red, candy apples) or mazamorra morada (Peruvian purple corn pudding). 

Sugar, sugar and more sugar. Amongst the scale vendors you will find many food vendors, most of whom sell sugary snacks (such as these red, candy apples) or mazamorra morada (Peruvian purple corn pudding). 

References:

1. "WHO | World Health Organization." WHO | World Health Organization. World Health Organization, 2015. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.

2. "Más De 50 Mil Personas En La Región Padecen De Diabetes." LaIndustria.pe, 11 June 2015. Web. 10 July 2016.