Pride and Prejudice:  The Army’s Big Fat Problem

According to Daniel O’Connor, an Ambassador for the Institute for Responsible Nutrition, nearly 75% of the American population eligible to serve in the US military can’t.  Why? Because they’re FAT!

Okay.  That’s too harsh.  But, seriously, they can’t serve our country because they’re clinically obese or overweight.  These are the 18-24 year old men and women in the US.  Almost 75% of them!

YES, that’s disturbing, but what about those already serving?

Way too much pride.  Anyone who’s served in a supervisory position before will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Soldier, civilian, grunt, or white-collar; sometimes people just don’t take your advice.

If it’s about making money, sure, people listen.  If it’s about how to improve their golf game or how to tweak their sales pitch to close more deals, people usually listen.

If the pep talk is about losing weight….Oh boy.  Pride just gets in the way.

I’m not talking about the typical gym-goer sweating to shed a few pounds on the elliptical.   Nor am I interested in the New Year’s Resolution gym-temps that only go in January….at least they take the advice.

I’m talking about soldiers.  Fat soldiers.

Sure, health professionals prefer the term “overweight” or “unhealthy weight status”, but that language falls on deaf ears.

Take a few seconds to consider the gravity of the situation here: Fat Soldiers!

That’s the status of millions of servicemembers serving in the US Military.  Using boardroom appropriate jargon to brief the brass about the readiness of our nation is a big, fat, waste of time.

Maybe they’re just prejudiced. They have a preconceived notion that’s probably based on their past ability to get lean & mean like they once did at boot camp.

They assume that since they’re Soldiers, they’re tough, strong, and don’t need to rely on anyone to manage their weight or improve their own health.

Unfortunately, many fat soldiers think this way, so they don’t ask for help. Worse, not much help is offered.

I wouldn’t say that they’re totally wrong about the “tough, strong” part. But, it’s the uniform and the American flag patch on their uniform that’s “tough and strong”…not the body that’s wearing it.

Daniel O’Connor’s thesis sounds the alarm on the homeland security threat from the obesity epidemic.  And even though obesity makes it a challenge to  find and recruit slim & fit citizens, it’s even tougher to manage and retain fat & unfit soldiers.

So What
Bottom line:  Pride and prejudice are both psychosocial barriers that need to be addressed as such.

Effective weight management strategies for Soldiers must involve education, teamwork, and resources….Not ignorance, isolation, and a pink-slip.

-John Rivera, M.Ed.
Primal Platoon Founder
Health & Fitness Educator/Consultant

John Rivera has over 20 years of experience in the nutrition & fitness field. He has helped service members, their families, and community members with their nutrition & fitness goals. He’s a passionate community health advocate whose writings have appeared on several web sites to include and From consulting on muscle building, to public health advocacy on his web site, John’s expertise and wealth of experience offers a unique perspective that’s missing in today’s health & wellness industry.


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