The Washington Post is running stories on the military's bulging bellies. I looked through my old Army photos and found one of my fellow infantrymen after a 10 mile run. Nope. No fat people there. I wonder why.
The Washington Post just ran a story on the military’s bulging bellies. I looked through my old Army photos from 1997 and found one of me with my fellow infantrymen after a 10 mile run. Nope. No fat people there. My Magic Eight Ball says the MOS might have had something to do with it.

Over the past few years there has been increasing coverage of the growing waistlines of our nation’s military. It’s generally a dumb story. The people charged with fixing the problem know exactly what’s going on:  Nobody does physical fitness like the infantry. Period. If you want less overweight soldiers, tell the POGS to look at their grunt-buddies for an example of how to stay in shape.

Let’s take a look at who, exactly, can’t seem to get their asses in gear, shall we?

Obesity Military

Surprise, surprise. Look who leads the pack or, more aptly, leads the rear of the formation on Company runs:  women, the Air Force, and fat old men who have their rank and don’t give a rip because they’ve hit twenty years of service and can retire at any time.

When I was part of Charlie Co., 1/18 Infantry in the 90’s we had a guy who treated his body like crap and he couldn’t stay in shape. The solution? They made me get up with him on the weekends and take him on four, five, and six-mile runs. We also ran after work. We did push-ups. We did sit-ups. Our Platoon Sergeant gave me free rein to drag him out of bed and onto the road for long runs until he got it in his thick head to get where he was supposed to be, meaning: in shape. When you make something a priority, things start to fall into place. Shocker. The military should make it a priority to emulate the kind of standards infantrymen hold themselves to.

With that said, the bigger story is the nation’s eating problem:

Obesity is now the leading cause of ineligibility for people who want to join the Army, according to military officials, who see expanding waistlines in the warrior corps as a national security concern. …

Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said he was floored by what he found in 2009 when he was assigned to overhaul the Army’s training system. Seventy-five percent of civilians who wanted to join the force were ineligible, he said. Obesity was the leading cause.

“Of the 25 percent that could join, what we found was 65 percent could not pass the [physical training] test on the first day,” he said in a recent speech. “Young people joining our service could not run, jump, tumble or roll — the kind of things you would expect soldiers to do if you’re in combat.”

I believe that our nation’s outward appearance is a reflection of our own cultural decay.

Sloth. Gluttony. Pride. Envy. A nation of video game obsessed, chip-eating narcissists live vicariously through the heroes in their first person shooter, only taking breaks to go to the bathroom and catch a few minutes of whatever brain dead reality show is popular on MTV. Huge swaths of the population sit around on their butts all day, and when they wake from their Netflix induced stupor long enough to catch a news report of someone who went out there and actually built something they become angry. (See: Occupy Wall Street.)

In the United States, we live in a society where anyone can be fat. Quite unlike any other time in history, the poorer you are in the United States the more likely it is that you will be fat. It’s a testament to our greatness, but one that doesn’t come without its own set of challenges. Where once artists and painters drew naked heavy women because weight was an indicator of wealth, today obesity is an indicator that you might very well be living on a tight budget.

Today, the rich have personal trainers to help hound off the weight, but the poor have internet access. All the nutritional information we could ever want is right there at our fingertips, and yet rich and poor alike don’t utilize it. There are YouTube videos, blogs, government funded websites and enough dietary knowledge to make anyone a subject matter expert in a relatively short amount of time, and yet we still pack on the pounds. Why? It’s because we aren’t serious. About anything. We spend our days working and our nights watching Jersey Shore. Or Buck Wild. Or Honey Boo Boo. Or Dancing with the Stars. Or American Idol.

And so, the nation’s newspapers should not worry about the body fat standards of the military so much as it should worry about the psyche of our civilian population. More nutrition labels aren’t the answer. More bans on sodium and fat are not the answer. Limits on carbohydrates aren’t the answer. Instead, I would argue that finding a way to change the culture in a way that tempers its obsession with instant gratification and celebrity would yield better results.

And if we fail? If there’s a zombie apocalypse we all know who will be the first ones to go — and it won’t be me.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

16 comments

  1. Right on.

    Much of the country doesn’t give a bleep about anything anymore. You’re right about cultural decline being evident. It’s accepted in public schools.

    The following may sound like a comedy routine, but it’s a sad fact in public education.
    In my high school, the shop teachers were missing fingers, the counselors were staggering drunks, the cooking instructor was several times divorced, and the PE instructors were all overweight.

    “Fat, drunk and ignorant is no way to go through life, son ” — Dean Wormer, “Animal House”

    1. I worked as a full-time sub in a high school just outside Chicago after college to save money for graduate school. This was in my home town, and the change in the kids after seven years (3 years in the military and my 4 for college) was astounding. I don’t even want to think of what it’s like now. The inmates are running the asylum.

      I’d have some stupid gang banger kid or future criminal act like a lunatic in class, I’d send him to the office, and they’d send him back five minutes later. I had a behavioral disorder class once that in my mind I felt like I couldn’t control at all. I felt like a complete loser, and after the class the assistant came up to me and said, “Wow! They must really like you. I’ve never seen them this behaved!” I said, “What are you talking about? They wouldn’t stop swearing the entire class? I thought a fist fight was going to break out?” She said: “They always swear. No, I’m telling you, they really respected you. They really enjoyed your history lesson. You did a really good job.”

      Kids today have zero respect for authority. I’m not even saying that in some sort of old man kind of way. It’s just true. I didn’t take any crap and I had a tough time. I feel bad for some meek little man or woman whose body language says, “Please, bowl me over.”

  2. You’re dead on.
    I am always angered when I hear overweight people bitch about being overweight, and often make statements like “diets just do not work for me!”, “I’ve tried everything!”, and/or “it’s genetic.” (when referring to being fat)
    Well, Oprah… I’ll tell you what you HAVEN’T tried: running.

    If you wake up every day and run, you WILL drop the pounds. It’s really is that simple.

    Unburned calories turn to fat.
    Your metabolism needs to rev.
    People who eat “low fat Oreos” and frozen Lean Cuisine dinners are not “doing everything they can”.

    I think back to my old fitness routines. My warmup was one hour on the eliptical…. and THEN my workout would begin. Oh, and big surprise… I was quite fit and also had tons of energy.
    One time, I was out with some people and I ate a 3rd slice of pizza. An overweight person next to me said “it must be so nice to have a fast metabolism!”

    Whatever.
    Enjoy your diet coke.

    1. There’s a story about a street artist who had a customer sit down for his portrait. The artist knocked out a really good drawing in five minutes and said, “That will be $25 dollars.” The customer said “Don’t you think that’s a little much? It’s a good drawing, but it only took you five minutes. Come on.”

      The artist replied: “It took 15 years … and five minutes. That will be $25.”

      The point is, people never look and see all the work that went on behind the scenes when they’re making comments about successful people. Success can be defined as you being in shape and having a body that allows you to eat three pieces of pizza guilt-free because you put in the miles on the treadmill … or it could be you doing a show in New York that knocks the crowd’s socks off. Either way, there will always be those losers who say “I wish I had fast metabolism” or “I wish I was musically inclined.”

      No. Shut up. I exercise. I have self discipline and don’t gorge myself on crap seven days a week. I played this guitar until my fingers bled. I put in the hours and you didn’t. That’s the difference.

      If you never read “Outliers: The Story of Success,” by Malcolm Gladwell, it’s pretty good. In one section he talks about all the hours the Beatles put in BEFORE they broke out. Good stuff.

  3. Everyone can play the Air Guitar.

    It takes a real musician to know the bass E string from the top E string, how to tune it, how to make harmonics, what to wipe down the strings and fretboard with, what key to play on a harmonica for blues or straight runs, how to make a barre chord 12 frets up, how to play a B7 without the bass strings buzzing, how to use a folded up matchbook cover as an emergency pick, and how to not play “Stairway to Heaven” to impress girls. (Learn “Embryonic Journey” by Jefferson Airplane instead).

    Everyone wants to be a playah. No one wants to put in the hours.

    Deliver me from Wannabe’s. Or Wannabe poets for that matter.

  4. I’ve never been thin myself… but I’ve always tried to moderate how much I eat and drink on a daily basis, especially since eleventh grade. On my last day of school that year, I weighed myself and was at 230 pounds, which is WAY too big for someone my height. I’ve made an effort to consciously avoid going back in that direction ever since then.

    I gained weight this year, but I’ve been trying to take the pounds off. I’m continuing to lose weight… I lost 5 more pounds recently.

  5. Let’s make this political because the mainstream media just is ignoring it.

    The “red states*” are the fattest states, when you look at obesity rates. Get it together, conservatives!

    * they also are freeloaders who like the redistribution of wealth since they take in more federal money than they provide by tax revenues.

    One can conclude that the right are fat and lazy. See how this generalization thing works?

    1. Actually, no, because you just made a few generalizations in the comments section of a blog. I make a concerted effort to link to other news sources (AP, Fox, Huffington Post, AFP, Reuters, New York Times, National Review, etc.). I provide videos. I talk about specific authors who have specialized in a given area. So there is a lot more going on in my blog than you seem to be giving it credit for right now.

      See how that blog thing works?

    2. I’m just surprised this isn’t liberals’ fault somehow.

      I though by making a tenuous political connection between an apolitical subject matter, it would show how rediculous the attempt is. Like how the lack of liberal outrage about one black sportscasters’ nasty comments about another black sports star somehow prove left-wing racial hypocrisy.

    3. When did I ever say I was “proving left-wing racial hypocrisy” with this post? I didn’t. But I can raise the question of media double-standards. I can ask “What would happen if Mark Levin said this?” in regards to the RG3 “cornball brother” flap. I can get people who come here (and there are a lot today) to think about stuff like that.

      I like how you seem to think you define what I’m doing here. You come to a conclusion as to what’s going on in my head, and then respond as if you’re right. Most of the time, you’re not.

      It’s like when you equated ideas of Twinkie unions, ke$ha, and moral compasses as equal reasons (or reasons at all) in my mind why Romney lost an election (I don’t even think the word ‘Republican’ wasn’t even mentioned some of those posts).

    4. Well, your “Americans are lost” post count went way up post-election…

      Wait, why not ask you why he lost and see what you say? A post perhaps?

  6. Hey Douglas, do you think there will ever come a time where conservatives and like minded people will no longer go into the military by choice because they’ve given up on America and a war will break out where all the government has are a bunch of neo-libs that can’t hold their own and a draft is called out?

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