Waist Beads – Ghana’s Secret Weight Loss Tool

It’s no secret that curvaceous women are considered sex symbols in some African cultures. In West Africa, being thin or slender is synonymous with poverty and malnourishment, hence why women with more voluptuous figures are so desirable. Tribes such as the Ashante and Krobo of Ghana consider the hourglass shape to be indicative of a woman’s level of fertility, however, the way she ‘holds herself’ can have a significant impact upon her desirability in the eyes of men.

A fuller figure may be celebrated in Ghana, but even they have limits as to the kind of size that is socially acceptable. Women are therefore taught from a very young age that excessive weight gain is frowned upon, and can even impact their chances of finding husband when they come of age.

Enter waist beads.

Ghanaian women don’t measure weight gain and loss in quite the same way as we do in Western cultures. For starters, very few households have metric scales. Instead, they use the strings of waist beads gifted to them by their mothers after the Dipo initiation ceremonies, or those presented to them by their husbands. Although primarily a tool of seduction, African waist beads are also used to keep one’s weight in check.

Traditionally, waist beads should be worn at the narrowest point of the waist above the hips. If they roll up higher, a woman will know she has gained weight, whereas if they fall onto the hips, a woman will be aware she has perhaps lost too much. Ideally, the beads should always sit in line with the navel.

Some women were multiple strands of beads around the waist. This is commonly a style choice, however, strands of larger glass beads can also train a young woman to hold herself correctly. Slouching and hunching are synonymous with women who are lazy and overweight – both traits that are considered undesirable in the eyes of Ghanaian men.

Red African Wedding Waist Beads gifted to brides on the eve of their wedding.

Red African Wedding Waist Beads gifted to brides on the eve of their wedding.

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