April 21, 2010

Too fat to fight?

Posted: 04:42 AM ET

Look around the room you’re in—one out of four of young people is unable to meet the requirements to join the U.S. military—so says a group of retired armed forces leaders. They believe this puts the country at risk and has become a national security threat. They point to us simply being too heavy. A threat from within if you will.

Richard Lui“It’s not drug abuse, it’s not asthma, it’s not flat feet—by far the leading medical reason is being overweight or obese,” said retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen Norman Seip.

Here are the stark indicators the group points to:
- 27% of 17 to 24-year-olds are medically ineligible because of weight
- 12,000 leave the service each year before their enlistment ends because they can’t pass physical fitness test

Here are some of the standards they must meet and maintain:
Army maximum weight – women, 241 lbs; men 259 lbs.
Army body fat content — depending on age, women with no prior service up to 36 percent body fat, and men with no prior service up to 30 percent

The group's suggestion: urge Congress to pass a law to remove school junk food, improve nutritional standards and quality of school meals, and open access to anti-obesity programs for children.

So what do you think: Are the U.S. military recruiting standards fair? Should they be raised or lowered? What do you think of the group’s proposal to prevent obesity? What else should be done? Is this really a national security threat?

Let us know what you think and we’ll try to share your comments on "Morning Express" this morning!

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Maria Cline   April 21st, 2010 6:21 am ET

I have an idea. The military can have a fat pre-boot camp. Anyone who wants to join but are too fat can get into the fat pre-boot camp and lose the weight and try again. That will really increase enrollment.

Wayne Smith   April 21st, 2010 6:22 am ET

I am a retired Senior Non-Commissioned Officer from the Army and I think that with all the equipment that the troops must carry today, they need to be fit to fight. So, I believe that the standards should be tighten a bit more. It is for the troops that they need to be fit to fight, otherwise they will be a hazard to their battle buddies.

Michael Kovich   April 21st, 2010 6:26 am ET

I served in the U.S. Military during the Vietnam era and I don't recall once seeing anyone in uniform being overweight and that's the way it should be. The military should be selective in setting their standards which I believe are too liberal. And shame on those parents for stuffing their children with junk food and not encouraging exercise. Of course, I am assuming that many of these parents are in the same physical condition that their children are becoming. And people ask why are our health costs sky rocketing. As we use to say in the Navy, "Shape up or ship out". Mike – Michigan

Tracy   April 21st, 2010 6:28 am ET

I totally agree! I also think that starting at the school levels is smart, but that they must be much more strict in their definition of "junk food." Look at Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution! A greasy French fry should not constitute a vegetable!

SGT MK   April 21st, 2010 6:32 am ET

Physical Fitness and health is a top priority throughout a service members career in the military. As a recruiter I meet countless young people who do not meet standards which are based on age, HEIGHT and weight. I myself have to have my body fat percentage done bi annually. The start of nutrition education and prevention of obesity in our future children is not only a military recruiting concern but should be a priority to ensure the improvement of American health overall.

peteramitchell   April 21st, 2010 6:32 am ET

I think the arm forces are doing the rigth thing it is leanmean get the job doun. I think they us want poeple to get the job doun.

JNebraska   April 21st, 2010 6:36 am ET

Change does need to start young. But do not add one more thing that schools need to fix. How about parents taking the responsibility on this one?

Deborah   April 21st, 2010 6:37 am ET

We must return recess in elementary school and required physical education class to middle and high schools. Exercise is key. We have a generation that had recess and P.E. and we did not have a need for medication for ADHD, misbehavior in class, so much bullying, and I could go on and on. Exercise and sports discipline will burn off the excess fat, attention problems, misbehavior, etc.

SGT MK   April 21st, 2010 6:38 am ET

Also as a mother of six, I see physical fitness programs and after school activities dwindled down year after year. I also see what is called "lunch" (very loosely) at the cafeteria. The National School Lunch Program should be overhauled and nutrtional standard guidelines should be revisited so that our children are taught and practice ealthy eating and physical fitness.

Toni   April 21st, 2010 6:42 am ET

I work in a Elementary cafeteria and I can say that we really follow the guide line set by the goverment on what we serve and the amount. But one thing that I see and as long as the parents consent to us serving a double lunch then we have to do it. It makes me sad to see some of these kids gorging themselves on extra food and then we hear how it starts in the school lunches to help keep these kid fit. I starts at home and if the parents don't follow these guidelines please don't use the school lunches as a scape goat. I would say one lunch and one lunch only. Toni

Russ Peterson   April 21st, 2010 6:45 am ET

Hey there
I was woundering all this talk about over whight kids What ever happened to the Presidental fisical fitness awards
they had in the 70's they gave out certificates patches
there was a 50 mile run 100 mile there was compition, pride and all the time we were getting in shape and every kid HAD to participate

It would cost very little Bring it Back

God bless America
Thank you

Billy D   April 21st, 2010 6:46 am ET

With fast food items such as KFC's new fried chicken breast sandwich which 2 fried chicken patty's replace bread, what do American's expect. It's no surprise that American's in general are becoming more obese with fast food items such as this one.

Dominick Lewis   April 21st, 2010 7:17 am ET

As a former Marine recruiter it was a pain the the but when you called a person on the phone and come to find out he was 5'5" 250lbs. Kids these days have no self respect for how they look. I do blame it on the parents for allowing their kids to become so fat they can't run a quarter mile. Also when a Marine gets to fat we kick him out. Now there is some red tape we have to go through and about 6 months to a year to get rid of him or her.

Christina Davis   April 21st, 2010 7:19 am ET

I am a 21 year old female and weigh 190lbs and the army would not accept me, even though I could pass a PT (physical training) test. Funny how obesity is now infringing on national security. In 1946 Truman created the national school lunch program for the young men that couldn't join the military because they were too skinny and malnourished. I see a correlation here.
-Christina in Alaska

Sandy Kent   April 21st, 2010 7:28 am ET

I think the only reason why the military would lower their standards is to have individuals to fill these jobs. Being overfat would put people at risk for health issues while on Active Duty. The whole Physical Fitness Standards would have to be revised. Since we have the don't ask don't tell and those members of the military whose only difference was their preference "met standards" were discharged. The cost of training members especially who are qualified is very costly to our budget. Why penalize those military members who were held to the standards of past for the pride and professional they projected by meeting up them. Todays military has changed! If you see a 240 pound women in the Navy she better be pregnant.


Tim   April 21st, 2010 7:30 am ET

As a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, I can personally say fitness is important. To wear your body armor, your weapon, kevlar, elbow pads, knee pads, and rucksack, you have to be in shape. When our soldiers are fit to fight, half the battle is won.

Jennifer   April 21st, 2010 7:38 am ET

I work in a school and in order to lose weight for our yearly competition I automatically lose weight by bringing food from home instead of eating cafeteria food. I noticed that I have gained FOUR pounds a year from eating cafeteria food. WOW!!!

janet   April 21st, 2010 7:38 am ET

Putting billion & billions into anti-obesity measures for our schools is counter productive if at the end of the day the children go home to endless jun food. These programs need to address "healthy habits" starting from the home and extending into the schools.

Jennifer   April 21st, 2010 7:40 am ET

It disgusts me how our children are fed in school. I have a 15 year old son, and he gets most of the 'junk' in his diet from school. At home we serve healthy low fat meals full of vitamins and nutrients, and then he goes to school and gets soda and fried everything (I'm in SC so here fried is an essential food group). my son is lucky enough to have a high metabolism but I feel bad for those kids that don't have the metabolism and home situation to make better choices. School should be the example, not something we need to fix. That we let it get to this point at all is atrocious. Add in the lack of emphasis on athletic programs and PE in schools these days and you've got a big part of why our children are less fit than they used to be.

Edward   April 21st, 2010 7:43 am ET

You would not believe how many times I ask if the children eat breakfast and how many times they say not at home but at school. After asking what they eat, they reply," breakfast pizza" of course I say, what the he'll is that. This is when I tell them eating at home could be healthier due to directly overseeing what children eat. Today, soda drinks are the staple of hydration and water is not drank- no taste. Snacks are chips, what happened to the responsible parent. I say tax unhealthy snacks, drinks, and alcohol to channel money into the health care system so we as a society can afford it.

SOLDIERMEDIC   April 21st, 2010 7:43 am ET

Put the Physical Education programs back in the curriculum. (key word being Physical) So many schools have cut this vital program out due to budget restraints.

Candy   April 21st, 2010 7:44 am ET

They can start in GA by not charging 500 dollars to play football, or 400 dollars to play basketball. That's just crazy.

Andy from Alabama   April 21st, 2010 7:46 am ET

Spending over 20 years in the military. No matter what they tell the press the military’s only way to fight fat is to tell you to eat less and run more, we are in the 21st century I’m sure there is some other way to handle this problem. In real life the bottom line is they don’t care what you can do but what it looks like you can do! A soldier who can’t do their job but is skinny will go farther then an over weight soldier who can do their . The military is discriminating against weight.

Derrick   April 21st, 2010 7:48 am ET

Maybe if the companies that make our food were required to leave out all the sugar that's added and leave it natural instead of " making it taste better ", this would probably reduce the diabetes epidemic in the U.S. as well.

Brenda Murphy   April 21st, 2010 7:50 am ET

Everyone needs to be concerned about the epidemic of overweight kids, but I disagree that we should put another social responsibility on the schools. I've seen what happens when green vegetables are served at schools- into the trash. And fruit in the morning instead of pop-tarts? Parents complain that "Johnny" had to do without lunch because he didn't get what he liked. Of course, when mom picks him up they head straight for the fast food. And exercise? I followed a school bus the other day and most parents were waiting for their kids to drive them the 200 ft to the house!! The PE teachers always have notes from parents about how "Johnny" shouldn't have to run or do exercise. The responsibility lies at home with parents. Schools should support that. We can't add another thing to the school day.

Don   April 21st, 2010 7:52 am ET

I joined in the 60's and basic handled the weight. The military has a need for intelligence too and sometimes those needs, especially in later years and specical jobs weight, although important, shouldn't be the determining factor.

BRITTANY DIXON   April 21st, 2010 8:22 am ET


sean   April 21st, 2010 8:25 am ET

Physical fitness is paramount towards an effective fighting force. The fact that so many Americans are overweight to the point of ineligible is a national risk and an embarrassment. Dealing with overweight soldiers detract from the training necessary to maintain a mission ready global force. LT US Army, Infantry

G James   April 21st, 2010 8:26 am ET

The reason the Army allows such a high percentage of body fat is because we have a program the Army has dubbed "Body by Drill Sergeant". Most if not all Soldiers that are overweight makes such a transformation after Basic Training that during family day their own family members do not recognize them after the weight loss.

Spc. Perkins   April 21st, 2010 8:28 am ET

I am currently active army military and I completly agree with them keeping overweight people from joining and also agree with it being a matter of national security, would you trust a person unable to run up a hill to chase down and protect u from a terrorist? A lot comes into play when your trying to protect yourself let alone a nation, in fact I think they should start chaptering out more of theese overweight people who are in now slowing down operations and makeing our missions take longer than they should. If we start letting theese "fatties" in now were not helping the obesity problem were okaying it, the military needs to set the standard!

Joan   April 21st, 2010 8:37 am ET

it starts when they are children... we need to feed our kids PROPER food, not over processed, sugar laden foods and stay away from the fast foods... it's called cooking at home... i grew up on home cooked meals, and now my son does. i take the time to make dinner, not poppig into a micro or drive thru. we need to bring our health back home and leave it away from the corporations who demand we use their man-made over processed products. jamie oliver's food revolution MAKES SENSE AMERICA, try utlizing whole foods that are healthy and lets stop killing our future

John   April 21st, 2010 8:39 am ET

Budget cutting in schools reducing least the board members saved their paychecks...

Pete Mills   April 21st, 2010 8:40 am ET

I don't understand how everyone seems so concerned about childhood obesity on one hand and then on the other they take Physical Education out of schools and the Parents of these obese children are themselves obese and seem to have no control on their own eating habits. Children learn what (or how) they live.
Thank you Pete Mills Mt. Gilead, Ohio

Bobby Whidden   April 21st, 2010 8:40 am ET

What if these kids have no plans to join the military.....It is scary to think that the military is getting involoved with the school system. I believe in separation of church and state as well as military and state....If the parents can not mold the children correcttly then they need not have children.

Colleen   April 21st, 2010 8:50 am ET

I don't think that schools should be solely to blame for the obesity epidemic. Kids can't eat all they want at school lunch like they can at home. I have worked in a school cafeteria and believe me when I say parents are the biggest problem with what's being served. Most families eat out a lot...a home cooked meal is a rare thing these days because parents are "too busy" to cook and kids grow up on junk food because of it.. Parents want to make their kids happy and kids want chicken nuggets and burgers and parents call the schools and complain if the kids don't get what they want.
And it doesn't do any good to teach kids healthy eating at school if it isn't implemented at home.
Bottom line...put the blame where it belongs...with the parents.

Megan   April 21st, 2010 9:17 am ET

Of course some people in the service are overweight. Have you seen the restaurants on the bases? All greasy, fast food... there are no healthy alternatives that only take fifteen to twenty minutes to get too and eat, and the majority of food served on the ships is horrid. I'm not sure this is much of a security threat-being heavy doesn't mean you can't fire a gun if needed, or work in control rooms.... Recruiters want the best of the best and will weed out anyone they can to find the person that will take it to the max and make it through basic and all their schools with no problems.

Michael Motley   April 21st, 2010 9:26 am ET

I am currently on active duty in the Army and the report on the height and weight standards are correct, but not to confuse potential recruits who are watching this morning, that is Army standards. We do not use water, or the caliper for testing body fat. It is measured with a measuring tape. I was measured with the caliper from a personal trainer and was 5% less than what the Army standards were, and it all depends on who is taping you.

Kelley B   April 21st, 2010 11:07 am ET

I say sign em up and slim em down! Why not let those who want to serve join the military and then give them a pre-basic boot camp to get them in shape? I'm not saying those who are morbidly obese, but say those who need to lose an additional 20-30 lbs!

If they have the drive and desire to serve their country it's worth the investment!

Navy Joe   April 21st, 2010 11:09 am ET

I think the most rediculous comment i've seen on here so far is "The Military is disriminating against weight". There are standards for a reason. You can't go out there and fight and expect to come home if you can't even fit into your gear. These standards are set for the safety of all military personnel. An out of shape soldier may as well be fighting with one hand tied behind his/her back.

Denise   April 21st, 2010 12:50 pm ET

The military and our government really need to combine forces with Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and make a difference in our schools.

Don Johnson   April 21st, 2010 9:05 pm ET

Clearly what we need is more people asking what's wrong with everyone else. Nobody needs to question CNN for producing news of such high quality. Nobody has EVER heard of bad knees in the military? Look at the bullet item again. "12,000 leave the service each year before their enlistment ends because they can’t pass physical fitness test". I don't doubt that the U.S military and Americans in general have a weight problem. This "article" just does not compel me.

I've been out of the military a LONG time, but even then there were healthy foods at the chow hall. The grocery stores didn't stop selling celery and carrots. Who are you blaming again?

The recruiters are probably scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to get anyone to go fight for oil. I mean, you wouldn't want a fat guy taking a bullet for your oil. We can afford to send them to fat camp before they enlist right. To make prettier corpses... for the media to take pictures of.

usaf_ad03   April 24th, 2010 9:15 am ET

@maria cline. yes, what a wonderful idea! at tax payers expense, too, huh??? genius over here!

i have another idea. if someone wants to join the military, i suggest, he/she lose the weight on account of his/her own motivation. the entry pt standards are there for a reason. can't meet the standards? then you probably have 0 business in the military. i'm just saying...

Chuck B   April 27th, 2010 1:31 pm ET

Russ Peterson: I can tell you what happened to the Program to which you refer. They dismantled it when they started to teach people like you to spell "Fisical" in that way.

Take away the Xbox. Get rid of the TV. Make the kids WALK, or ride a bike.

Two years ago, I was horrendously underweight. 3 years ago, I was Extremely overweight.

That goes to show what eliminating the donuts and the candy will do.

EVERYTHING IN MODERATION - if you want to be physically fit. I wouldn't have qualified, anyway. Deaf, asthma stricken... No, I wouldn't qualify. Fortunately, I didn't have to qualify.

fair   May 20th, 2010 12:57 pm ET

somthing needs to be done fast ,there are a lot of alhretic kids that rather play x box then go to play any sports or just stay active parnts of these kids you are to blame make them go do somthing for 30 mins a day iam just saying its bad we cant even put people in the army becuse there over wight.

thank you

Mike From Kansas   June 29th, 2010 11:53 am ET

I have read all of these comments and for those who say that being fit is a requirement for becoming successful in the military then you are full of crap. Being fit and being successful are two totally different things, and you know I have heard that people will lose up to at least 30 pounds in boot camp and more in A.I.T. I think that instead of having such rigorous standards to join, the military should let anyone join who is ay leasy within range of being close whether it is 2% to 8% body fat. I am supposedly 6% over the limit but I still want to get in. You know this debate wouldn't be nessecary if the government would lighten up and quite living in the past. Being fit is just a health term that peole throw around loosely. In reality anyone can shoot, anyone can push a button and they can be a big obese person. If we are that worried about how we look to other countries, well then that is just messed up. I may be a bit overweight (260-265) but you know what I stil have the heart of a warrior and want to be part of the military.

eeee   July 15th, 2011 7:42 am ET

Do a healthy exercise instead of eating pop tarts or unhealthy food, just abstain from any foods.

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