According to the Wall Street Journal, about half the women in the Middle East are overweight or obese:

In Bahrain, 83% of women are obese or overweight, according to International Obesity Task Force, a London-based think tank that tries to persuade countries to tackle the problem. In the United Arab Emirates the figure is 74%; in Lebanon it is 75%, the groups says. By comparison, about 62% of American women are overweight or obese. The prevalence of childhood obesity in the Middle East has risen rapidly in recent years and diabetes is spreading across the region, according to WHO.

Even predominantly Arab North African countries without oil wealth are wrestling with the challenge, in part because of a traditional preference for larger women. Half of all women in Tunisia and Morocco are overweight or obese — two standard measures of a person’s weight — according to a 2001 study published in the U.S.-based Journal of Nutrition.

What I found disturbing in this article was the statement:

The belief that rotund women are more desirable as wives helps explain why much of the Arab world — which stretches from the Persian Gulf in the east to Mauritania in North Africa — is experiencing an explosion of obesity.

As an Arab woman myself (who is currently struggling to lose weight) I totally disagree with this faulty statement. The reason there is obesity among Arab women is mainly due to lack of exercise and the lack of awareness about healthy diets. The author’s statement is a generalization, as he (or is it she) began the article discussing the issue of force feeding among women in Mauritania:

Force-feeding is usually done by girls’ mothers or grandmothers; men play little direct role. The girls’ stomachs are sometimes vigorously massaged in order to loosen the skin and make it easier to consume even greater quantities of food. … Local officials say some women are so fat they can barely move. In [a Mauritanian] survey, 15% of the women said their skin split as a result of overeating. One-fifth of women said one of their toes or fingers were broken to make them eat.

Well, If Mauritanian women want to be obese, then that’s their problem. I’m not gonna speak for other Arab women, but I can certainly speak for Jordanian women. In my country, the skinnier the woman is the better she looks! Obesity is never encouraged, in fact it is a turn-off!