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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 July 2007, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
The fattening rooms of Calabar
Happiness Edem
Happiness believes being fat is a healthy look
In some African societies being fat remains a symbol of status and power - despite the well-known problems connected to obesity. In Nigeria, the rich can pay for special "fattening rooms" to put on extra weight.

BBC World Service's Outlook programme spoke to a couple who opted for such a service before their wedding.

"In the morning you eat fine," says Happiness Edem, recalling her time in the fattening room in the Nigerian city of Calabar.

"After eating you can take a bath. From there you can sleep, you sleep fine, you wake up, you eat, you sleep."

Happiness attended the fattening centre for a total of six months, at the request of her husband, Morris Eyo Edem, leading up to their wedding.

By the time she had come out, her body shape had changed completely - to the delight of her husband.

Fattening culture

The average weight of a Nigerian woman is 60kg - but Happiness is well over twice that.

As a prince, Mr Edem requires a particularly large wife, and adds that a slim wife would have no appeal for him.

Happiness Edem
Happiness maintains her weight through garri
"I don't think I will ever even do that," he says.

"People will think I am not rich... If a woman is not fat and has not gone through that process she does not qualify for marriage."

After she had been fattened up, he continued to maintain her weight through feeding her up on garri, a sort of porridge made from cassava tubers, and native salads, known as Ekpan Koko and Oto.

"I add rice and beans and more meat and fish to make her more huge and big to maintain the stature you want your woman to be," he adds.

And the Prince and his wife, who belong to the Efik tribe, certainly see no reason to change.

"When you are fat, it makes you look healthy," says Happiness.

"People respect you. People honour you. Wherever you go, they say, 'your husband feed you fine.

"If you go to a village, people can come out to look at you, because you are healthy."

Despite the risks of heart disease, diabetes and other health problems associated with being overweight, Happiness says she has had no problems as a result of her stature.

"It is all about cultures," says her husband.

"The culture here in our area permits women to go into fattening room. But the culture in Europe and other Asian or American does not."

Happiness Edem talks about her time in the fattening room


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