Military obesity isn’t the issue: Civilian fat bodies are

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.

Obesity Epidemic? Try Stupidity Epidemic, America.

Newsfat (I mean "newsflash"): If you swap spit with a fat person, you won't grow love handles. If you eat fried foods with them before going to bed every night, you will. Shocker.

America doesn’t have an “obesity epidemic.” You don’t “catch a fat” when you’re in enclosed spaces with your overweight coworker. Fat rolls aren’t picked up by people who don’t cover their stomach when they sneeze. If we’re going to play that game, let’s be honest: America has a “stupidity epidemic.” And on that topic Slate has a story that’s worth unpacking:

Racial and ethnic minority adults continue to make up the largest share of the epidemic. Among the national population, obesity rates were the highest for African-Americans and Latinos.

In addition, Americans who made less money and had less education were more likely to be obese. Adults making less than $15,000 per year, for instance, had a 33 percent obesity rate, compared with a 21.5 percent rate for those making at least $50,000 per year.

Anyone who’s occasionally listened to rap knows that guys like Kanye West believe the government concocted the AIDS virus to kill poor minorities, and the CIA unleashed cocaine  on inner cities to do the same.

Before you ask me to get a job today, can I at least get a raise on a minimum wage?/
And I know the government administered AIDS/
So I guess we just pray like the minister say/
Allah o Akbar and throw em some hot cars…

Question: When will rappers start throwing out lyrical daggers at the fast food industry? It will be interesting to hear theories about how George Bush and the GOP created the Quarter Pounder with Cheese to ensure a never-ended cycle of poverty and diabetes. But I digress…

The point is—fast food is cheap. We should thank our lucky stars we live in a country where rich white liberals lament the tasty, tasty burgers and crispy golden fries the less-affluent have to deal (or was that deal meal?) with.  But that’s besides the point. There are plenty of healthy alternatives. Black beans and other legumes are extremely good for you. There are many frozen and canned vegetables that are not that expensive. Meat can be pricey, but there are cost-effective options for anyone who’s willing to put in a little effort looking. This underscores the more important point: a little education and initiative go a long way. The Nanny State, however, saps initiative and drive from the citizenry. Over time, the communities  that abdicate character-building responsibilities to the federal government become human gerbil farms performing tasks for fat pellets.

We’ve become a nation that sits in front of the television for hours on end. We eat sugary snacks and carb-loaded crap while doing so. We spend hours watching vapid California girls make Japanese-inspired fools out of themselves. We actually find it entertaining to tune in to talking heads screaming at each other every night instead of going outside to play catch or ride a bike with our kids. We’ve convinced ourselves that we have to spend countless hours looking at our Blackberries or iPhones for the latest email, instead of going on a long walk with our significant other.

Cold hard truth: There is no obesity epidemic; there is a national State of Denial. We’re in denial about federal deficits. We’re in denial about entitlement programs. We’re in denial about our horrid education system. We’re in denial about how important it is for America—the freest country the world has ever known—to remain strong and vibrant on the global stage. Are you the sensitive type who thinks an American superpower creates enemies? Wait until we’re a has-been afterthought of a nation and let me know how that works for global peace and stability.

On issue after issue, we’re a country that has become the fat, lazy, bloated guy who looks in the mirror and still sees himself as a leaner, meaner version of his younger self.

One of the precursors to diabetes is acanthosis nigricans, a discoloring of the skin (usually around the sides and the back of the neck). As a nation, we have acanthosis. We’ve enjoyed the empty calories of government-goodies for a long time, and the clock is ticking before our vital signs fail. It’s obvious to our friends and neighbors, but too many of them sit silently because it’s the polite thing to do. Unfortunately, it’s also the deadly thing to do. Worse yet, the people who are supposed to serve as public-policy doctors with a prescription for healthy living aren’t doing such a bang-up job.

Keep telling yourself you have an “epidemic”, America. When you go into diabetic shock there will be no Greece or Europe or China to give you your insulin. Instead of your common dirge, might I suggest something by Radiohead at the national funeral? How to Disappear Completely seems eerily apropos.