Readiness concern: Military struggles with obesity problem in active-duty members

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Liberty Wing Airmen deploy to bolster U.S. defense posture in Middle East. Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Renee Nicole Finona

More than two-thirds of active duty service members are within the overweight or obese ranges of the body mass index, otherwise known as BMI, according to American Security Project report released this week.

The report found that:

  • 68% of active-duty service members are overweight or obese. “Obesity is the leading disqualifier of military applicants and a primary contributor to in-service injuries and medical discharges,” the report says.
  • Military obesity across the active duty has more than doubled over 10 years, from 10.4% in 2012 to 21.6% in 2022. Eating disorders increased by about 79% between 2017 and 2021.
  • Despite being a chronic disease with several FDA-approved treatment options, antiquated body composition policies and stigma prevent effective treatment of obesity within the Armed Forces, the report says. Recently, there has been a push to stop using the body mass index as the standard for military fitness, and this report appears to support that.
  • The removal of body mass statistics from military recruitment and disability reports used by Department of Defense stakeholders and Congress “resulted in incomplete and misleading conclusions. This data is needed to identify at-risk populations and design effective, evidence-based interventions.”

Data from the Department of Defense, which is calculated using the person’s age, height, and weight, shows fatness has doubled in 10 years. During the same period, more than half of young Americans are obese and being too fat is now the top reason people are disqualified from joining the military.

The report makes these recommendations:

  1. The Defense Health Agency should promote and enforce awareness, diagnosis, and treatment of obesity as a chronic disease across the armed services.
  2. Body composition and military appearance regulations should be wholly reviewed and brought in line with evidence-based research. Policies allowing commanders to arbitrarily assign or exempt obese service members from medical intervention should be rescinded.
  3. All services should seek to close the gap between high recordings of obese BMI during military health and fitness evaluations and low obesity diagnosis and treatment rates.
  4. All service members with obesity should be referred to a credentialed obesity physician, registered dietitian, or bariatric physician for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
  5. Military reports on disqualifications, disability, and medical discharge should include BMI data until overweight and obesity diagnoses reflect real obesity rates of the force. Body mass data should be reintroduced within annualized reports evaluating recruitment, retention, and retirement trends.
  6. The Defense Health Agency should significantly improve frequency of military obesity reports or broaden the pool of researchers and academics who can access military weight data.

“The growing prevalence of obesity in service members reduces the readiness of the all-volunteer military, but it isn’t a moral failing; it’s a health crisis. Framing obesity as an issue of insufficient willpower or discipline prevents soldiers from seeking and receiving treatment, makes commanders and healthcare workers less inclined to intervene, and worsens health outcomes across the services,” the report notes.

According to the study, obesity varies across services with the Air Force having a reported obesity rate of 11%, while the Navy has a reported rate of 27%. Active Component men are twice as likely to have obesity as Active Component women.

Pacific Islanders have the greatest risk of obesity, with 41% obese, while Asian-descent personnel have the lowest, at 14%.  Enlisted personnel, including combat support (military police/intelligence), combat arms (infantry/artillery), and combat service support (transport/maintenance), are 7% more likely to experience obesity than officers, according to the report.

The author, Courtney Manning, is a National Security Research Fellow at the American Security Project, leading ASP’s research on military recruitment and readiness, strategic competition with China, and emerging technology risks. She holds a master’s degree in international security policy from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of Denver Korbel School.

The entire report can be studied at this link.

50 COMMENTS

  1. Thats because the Military has gone soft!! Bring back the discipline. Get rid of General Miley and his leftist ways. This is also the fault of the Biden Administration.

    General Miley has been kissing the leftist butt just so he can get a cushy defense government job!

  2. Maybe they ought to consider ending the fast food contracts on military bases and going back to nutrition management in the mess halls?

    • Mandatory unit PT daily. 6 mile runs, timed, at least once a week.
      You are right about the mess halls.
      Then each unit should have a “platoon” for over weight personnel, stand formation AFTER work hours with another 3 mile walk/run every day including Saturdays.
      Further, if the problem is that severe, there have to be issues with general fitness as well.
      At least 3 months a year should be in the field , training in minimum of 7 day increments.

    • Nutrient standards? You apparently never had to choke down C rats or Army mess hall swill. Nutrition wasn’t ever a thing. There’s always been fatties in green

  3. Absolutely the Military has gone woke!!! When a DI is admonished for being too rough on a GI and that GI can report that DI, that piss poor GI can basically “take a knee” to get out of training! Our Country is doomed!

  4. Gluttony that’s what happens when life is really good, we over indulge among other traits when we never really had to know suffering. For Americans we been living a very good life. America has been riding the waves of blessings sent out by God when we as a whole country it only worshipped and feared God.

    You know fitness is something our men soldiers can/could been doing begin a new social routine together. Instead of feeling pity and anger all by themselves. The social activity may help our men with their PTSD lesson it, if they daily workout on elliptical and treadmill together.

  5. I remember when my friends husbands had to go out in subzero temperatures for many days on maneuvers. Now most everything is done on computers. My father was Navy in the 1940’s, my brother was on Naval submarines in the 60’s! My husband’s brother was injured in Vietnam! Where are all of our men now???

  6. I noticed fatness isn’t just a military concern. Look at your neighbors around you. It’s what occurs while living a good life when we can reward ourselves and neighbors everyday with food and treats. Gluttony isn’t a curse, it’s just what happens when we are too content and relaxed. Fatness or fullness has always been a healthy sign of financial success or a very hospitable hostess who fed her guests well.

    Peoples lack of understanding God’s Word don’t understand the tithing. How to pay and live on what’s needed for self and family, while donating the excess to home church and various ministries like KATB 89.3Fm whom just completed its one week Share-a-thon. In Alaska there is more than enough self proclaimed Christians or those who believe in the Christian mission yet hadn’t received Christ. they can eat a little lighter during the months of eating extra than necessary giving 50.00 they spend on eating out and treats to the KATB 89.3 radio that would met their 80,000 goal and some more on Friday. Or give it to pay for Hope Center’s or Anchorage Gospel Mission’s bills or some kind of mission work that lifts up Christ over us.

  7. Did you know C.S Lewis didn’t keep the royalties from his books. he had a modest salary as a tutor at Magdalen College, which he set up a charitable trust to give away whatever money he received from his books. I guessing C.S Lewis writing he considered the Lord’s work. That’s kind of a modern day example of tithing being used outside the home church.

    • Did you know the vast majority of people don’t care? And this hasn’t a single thing to do with the topic at hand?

  8. And C.S Lewis wasn’t fat. He didn’t over indulge when he could had. That’s how Christ teaches his believers We are to seek out more Our Daily Bread in Christ alone filling up on The Word of God not on the pleasures of this world to complete our fullness. We are to give to the needy where Christ sends us. The Bible doesn’t tell us be poor as a pauper giving all so we are dependent upon others to care for us. When the Christian noticed they are eating too much so their body can maintain it overweight size of 220 lbs on a 5 foot 7 frame. Or 200 lbs on a 5 foot frame Or 300-400 lbs on a 6foot frame. Something needs to financially change.

    Have you ever gone to a church leaving it you felt hungry. I have many times. The preacher he didn’t feed me enough God’s Word. I think a lot of Americans feel that way empty so they over feed themselves with favorite food and treats. But the bread of this world wasn’t meant to last. Four hours later, the body is hungry again.

    Okay I’m done.

  9. I sometimes sit in the waiting room at Elmendorf Hospital when I need to get labs or an appointment. What I see in active duty USAF members as they walk by is appalling. At the risk (and I accept it) of being racist/sexist, the active member cadre I see is mostly obese women wearing BDU’s that in another era would be more accurately denominated as maternity clothes. I suspect they all obeyed their covid masters and took the shot as well. Well if I were a chicom agent sitting there I couldnt not be more confident that the US is ripe for invasion.

    • How many fat lady’s worked in ammunition plants are assembly lines during ww2? They’re just people that serve a need. You don’t have to be aroused by their appearance. You should respect their service to the country though.

  10. So.

    I have stated this many times, and I shall state it once again.

    There are two very prescient films that exist that foretell our current situation unto the situation we shall find ourselves within, given our current circumstances and direction.

    The first film is Idiocracy, whereas the future general populace is so ill-educated that a current low-educated individual seems a genius within comparison, as even though they are not intellectually gifted, or learned, within their own time, within comparison, they are considered a genius within the future of stupidity.

    The second film is Wall-E, whereas the human population has given themselves completely over unto the technology of their lives through Artificial Intelligence, whilst through their generations, they become fat, overweight blobs of obtuse and ignorant existence, the willing slaves unto their own technology.

  11. Just popped up overnight, those obesity problems?
    .
    The “Defense Health Agency” which:
    .
    (a) allows service members to live in barracks “…so neglected that troops in one facility are left to clean up ‘biological waste remaining in a barracks room after a suicide”;
    (businessinsider.com/us-military-barracks-troops-filthy-conditions-mold-sewage-pests-suicide-2023-9?op=1)
    .
    (b) can’t figure out why “…Army Suicides Rise Despite a 15% Overall Decrease Across the Other Service Branches”;
    (military.com/daily-news/2022/10/20/army-suicides-rise-despite-decreases-across-other-service-branches.html)
    .
    (c) is so clueless about the rise of life-threatening COVID-19 vaccine-caused myocarditis that “DoD (has to confirm): Rare Heart Inflammation Cases Linked to COVID-19 Vaccines”;
    (‘https://www.military.com/daily-news/2021/06/30/dod-confirms-rare-heart-inflammation-cases-linked-covid-19-vaccines.html)
    .
    now worries about fat soldiers, apparently because commanders and NCO’s don’t, or if they do, they’re unable to do anything about the obesity problem?
    .
    Something’s wrong with this picture.
    .
    Seems reasonable to wonder this brand-new crisis might be meant to distract attention from an increasing number of life-threatening COVID-19 vaccine-caused myocarditis emerging among service men and women who were forced to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

  12. I am 5’10”, 185 lb. BMI 26.5, which is classified as “overweight”. By the pinch test I am sub 11% body fat. Overweight? Naw, just a little meaty.

    • Guessing this is the family ride…
      (thesun.co.uk/news/24391321/israel-deploys-indestructible-bulldozer-gaza/)

  13. Masked Avenger? I ain’t going to say anything to you since you profess to be a Christian except this one statement. That’s all I am going to say. Everyone else (like Greg because he doesn’t know better) I can ignore. But you a catholic and professing Christian you should know better and understand.

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