In Mauritania fat is beautiful - obesity has long been a sign of wealth.
Girls traditionally receive more food than boys and are even force-fed to help them pile on the pounds.
But decades of this behaviour are beginning to take their toll, as Pascale Harter discovers in Crossing Continents.
Women have died after taking cattle steroids hoping for a quick fix, and obesity-related health problems are on the rise.
So now, for the first time, a growing number of young women are rebelling against the fat look.
Through the eyes of one family, Pascale hears about the changing attitudes towards obesity and force-feeding.
She meets Mounina who was force-fed by her aunt and suffers from heart problems - she now campaigns to raise awareness about the dangers of obesity.
Mounina introduces Pascale to the aunt who force-fed her.
And she meets Mounina's nieces and daughters who are abandoning tradition in a desire to be thin, influenced by satellite television.
BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents was broadcast on Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 1102 BST.
Presenter: Pascale Harter
Producer: Emma Rippon
Editor: Sue Ellis