October 29, 2013

"Chubby military personnel are getting liposuction to pass Pentagon's body fat test."

One plastic surgeon says "They come in panicked about being kicked out or getting a demerit that will hurt their chances at a promotion."

Another plastic surgeon says: "I've actually had commanders recommend it to their troops... They'll deny that if you ask them. But they know some people are in really good shape and unfortunately are just built wrong."

Sucking out some fat is a stopgap, desperate effort at approximating fitness. And yet the pressure is on to change the standards:
Fitness experts and doctors agree, and are calling for the military's fitness standards to be revamped, including the weight tables the Pentagon uses. They say the tables are outdated and do not reflect that Americans are bigger, though not necessarily less healthy.
Of course, Americans will lap up this expert opinion, along with every other item of comfort food on the plate.


The Drill SGT said...

The standards won't change because of fatties. They may ultimately get 'gender normed' (reduced).

But the overweight folks who can max the PT test are few and far between.

rehajm said...

The enemy is not frightened by your man-boobs, Major Fattie.

ALP said...

"...But they know some people are in really good shape and unfortunately are just built wrong."
I know the type - I was a member of a fairly large, competitive weightlifting team (powerlifting). At one point, we had nearly 120 men and women involved in competition - a very diverse group with many body types. I have logged many, many hours of training in the gym around these folks.

These are the hairy white guys that, despite being able squat/bench/deadlift amazing weights - and eating fairly healthy - can't lose that stubborn layer of fat under their skin no matter what. OH the humanity - they wanted those six packs they deserved for all that work so badly. But then, the black dudes whined about their skinny calves, and the Asian guys complained about having perfect proportions - but being shorter and smaller than the rest.

I can't tell you how many times during my own peak of fitness, I was left in the dust on a steep hiking trail - by one of these big Bear type guys. There I was - in the best shape of my life (cardio and strength). And to add insult to injury - they are barely breaking a sweat, and carrying much more that I.

There is also the female counterpart. Usually competing in the higher weight classes, these were large boned, tall women, usually endowed with major boobage and that stubborn layer of abdominal fat. Training 10-12 hours a week - living on broccoli and skinless chicken breasts - still never achieving the skinny ideal.

Ya gotta work with what you have.

TosaGuy said...

Been in the military 24 years.

The physical fitness and weight standards are not that difficult if one implements a minimal amount of discipline to put in a reasonable effort.

I remember the days in the military where self-discipline meant something.

Robin said...

I fought the Army height/weight standards for almost 20 years. I lost 1" due to a parachute accident and was over weight the very next week. Unfortunately, my metabolism didn't get the message. I was at 16% body fat but was still considered over weight. I was "taped" every time for the next 17 years.
I have seen fantastic soldiers forced out because they didn't meet the Army's ideal. It is shameful. Image is more important than competence.

TosaGuy said...

ALP does bring up the exceptions that prove the rule.

However, in my experiences, the bodybuilder types, along with the gazelles of the run part of the APFT, get left in the dust when one puts the rucksack on.

ALP said...

Robin said:

I was at 16% body fat but was still considered over weight.
This is why hydrostatic weighing should be the standard for measuring body fat.

ALP said...


Uh...big, big, BIG difference between bodybuilding and powerlifting.

The former is a beauty contest.

The latter is a test of strength.

Some people can do both, but those are the folks with perfect proportions and a natural tendency to be lean with more muscle mass.

There is a massive difference in the two cultures. Powerlifting is in the Special Olympics, there are lifting events for those with missing limbs (obviously, confined to bench presses for those missing legs) and the range of weight classes and AGE classes makes it a very inclusive sport.

Tarrou said...

Bona Fides - Former infantry Sergeant. Also, a naturally skinny person.

The Army weight program is a joke. Plenty of unfit jokers skate by because they have the right body type, and I can name you a half dozen guys constantly fighting violation of the "fat program" who consistently pulled 300+ PT scores. Do away with the fat program, raise the PT standards, and we're all golden. I don't care how people look, or what their neck measurement is compared to their waist. What I care is, can they sprint two miles and ruck a hundred? The fat program is a superficial bit of BS.

Moose said...

You post a lot of pictures of desserts I've noticed...

Michael K said...

The real question is whether Obamacare will pay for it.

betamax3000 said...

Did Ann Briefly Have a Post Showing a Mass Grave of Gummy Bears Masquerading as the Common Cold, or I Am I Just Seeing Into the Future Again?

SGT Ted said...

The Army weight program is silly and not accurate. I had a marathon running older guy that was cutting 300s on his PT score fail weight screening and had to be taped every time. He always taped out at 11-12% BFI. It was all body type, not fitness.

It also allowed fat body, completely out of shape females escape scrutiny, because of the arbitrary standards of neck to waist to wrist measurements.

Guys built like fire hydrants would also often fail weight and would have to tape. Hydrostatic weighing should be the standard but I doubt they could afford it, especially in the Reserves and Guard, as they are spread out way more geographically than the Navy or Air Force.

Don't get me started on the PT programs affirmative action standards for females.

Lem said...

If you want your love handles you can keep them.

Lem said...

"lap up" something also "lap something up"

1. to enjoy something very much My dogs lap up whatever attention I can give them. Related vocabulary: eat it up

2. to believe what is said or written without knowing or caring if it is true Even if you're lying, there's always someone who will lap it up because most people want to believe you.

Lem said...

Liposuction lap dance.

TosaGuy said...

Will use different word choice on powerlifters, etc in the future.

The soldiers who were not tubs of goo but had problem with the weight standard (if you make tape, you make the standard) were those who lifted and took the supplements, thus warping their natural physique.

I don't see the standard as the problem if the soldier is engaging in activities that make it harder to be a soldier.

Hydrostatic is expensive and a way to minimize the cost and keep a good soldier is have it available upon an appeal.

TosaGuy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TosaGuy said...

The emphasis on PT and H/W has grown over the years as it is an "objective" standard to weed people out and create order of merit lists.

Other aspects like performance evaluations suffer from grade inflation and are subjective, thus opening up all sorts of avenues of official complaint.

I do think this emphasis by convenience is bad for the military.

chrisnavin.com said...

There's making a whole buffet, I suspect, Euro-style:

Lowered fitness standards for those who go in to everyone in the service has PTSD when they get out.

Of course, war is bad, and peace is next, but until then, let's keep aiming for abstract equality and pure democracy.

Cedarford said...

Military weight standards have been stuck in the past like the obsolete "Food Pyramid" emphasizing how great carbs and high fructose fruit drinks are.

Early 90s, even the AF recognized that many mission specialties were far better done by a mesomorph than a skipping gazelle ectomorph. But the "heavy is unacceptable" system favored the ectomorph even as they conked out lugging a 140 lb band of 20mm ammo across a long runway from bunker to ready hanger - to a plane scheduled to combat sortie in 15 minutes.

At the time, commanders were discouraging both junior officers and through them and the NCOs...the troops from using weights for building up muscle strength and mass...as that narrowed their margins to when they "failed weight standards" and had to be put on fat boys squad.

Made no sense then, makes no sense now.

RecChief said...

but Army leaders won't change it. I have never, in 28 years in uniform, been in compliance with the height/weight table. But we have a way to deal with it. Used to be the caliper test, now it is a tape test both methods are imperfect to assess body fat percentage, but depending on age, there is a generous (in my view) allowance. generally coming in at 12-13% I've never had an adverse consequence. other than this:

Guess who was picked to carry the M60, spare barrel and ammo cans?

RecChief said...

SGT Ted,
Right on!

Ann Althouse said...

"You post a lot of pictures of desserts I've noticed…"

Me? You think so?

Guess how many desserts I've eaten in the last year and a half? I think I can count on one hand. We're low carb here at Meadhouse. Dessert is only on a special occasion, like the time we had huckleberry pie in Montana in the summer of 2012. The only other desserts I can remember were a couple times when we ate at L'Etoile.

Jim Howard said...

In the Air Force there is a maximum waist size. Exceed it and your career is over.

The Air Force will say 'only 67 members were kicked out for waist size', and that's true. But it's really a lie.

Any airman or officer who exceeds the max waist limit will have their evaluations marked down and will be removed from leadership positions, not matter how they did on the PT test.

Unless they have good family connections.

In the Air Force they say that 'looking good is a full time job', and they mean it!

It's really impossible to overstate the importance the Air Force places on physical beauty.

I'd strongly recommend liposuction to any career Air Force member who has visible love handles, even if they max the PT test.

Any member at or over the waist limit should get an emergency liposuction if they have any indention of making the military a career.

Titus said...

"The enemy is not frightened by your man-boobs, Major Fattie."

Man boobs are one of the worst travesties I have witnessed in my life.

Ann Althouse said...

Here's a calculator that's supposedly using the Navy's standards. I passed as acceptable, and I'm 62 years old with a sedentary job.

Is it really that difficult?

Ann Althouse said...

And that's without the assistance of liposuction, which I think is an appalling thing to do to your body. I've seen video of it being done. It's violent!

Ann Althouse said...

Of course, in the future, the government will be getting after all of us, requiring waist and neck measurements and then… doing something to nudge us (e.g., denying us surgical treatments and putting us on the pain-control pills if we don't measure up).

n.n said...

Wow. Treating symptoms, while ignoring causes. They are following the Executive's lead. That can't be good for the minority of soldiers who are exposed to mortal threats. They clearly lack discipline and cannot be considered reliable.

LarsPorsena said...

RecChief said...

SGT Ted,
Right on!

10/29/13, 10:23 AM


paul a'barge said...

Sucking out some fat is a stopgap, desperate effort at approximating fitness

Not really. You have a fixed number of fat cells, and these cells either expand (obesity) or contract (when you lose weight). Liposuction actually removes fat cells from your body and those fat cells do not reproduce.

If the object is to remove fat to effect body mass calculations, Liposuction is a very workable solution.

Tank said...

I'm 60 and came out as athletic on the test (LOL). Everyone at Althouse should take the test and post their scores. Then we could list commenters by score.

Then we could make fun of each other.

That would either be a guy thing or a dick move (or is it the same?).

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm 60 and came out as athletic on the test (LOL)."

Well, that inspired me to go in and change numbers for my height until I could get an athletic score, and I'm sure I'd look skeletal at that weight.

Tank said...

Yes, I would describe me as slim.

5'10" at 151 lbs.

I'm fit, but hardly think of myself as athletic anymore.

Ann Althouse said...

Or… it's not just weight. You can have more effect on the athletic/fit/acceptable result by getting a lower waist measurement number.

That does seem to be a little strange. If you put on weight in your legs and arms and upper back, you can be "fit" weighing more than another person your height who carries it around the middle.

I can see how this would irritate people: You're discriminating against an inherited body type. And it would make liposuction seem like a reasonable solution. If the whole problem, as you can see on the calculator, is one inch around the waist, and you're not even dissatisfied with your weight and losing weight wouldn't even target that area, maybe it is smart to get the lipo. You career depends on it.

Skyler said...

The army standards are pretty lenient compared to the Marines. I don't want to serve with Marines that can't pass the height and weight standards. In all cases, eating less and much more rigorous exercise results in losing the weight.

Skyler said...

I should say the army enforcement of standards is lenient compared to the Marines. I don't really know what their standards are.

We certainly have overweight Marines, but they suffer from very intense, very personal, insulting treatment from everyone. It's very unpleasant to be overweight as a Marine. It takes a long time to kick them out, but the Marines are a religion as much as a military, and being overweight is apostasy.

Jason said...

I never met an ectomorph who didn't think it was easy, and I never met an endomorph who didn't think it was hard as hell.

Where you stand on this depends on where you sit. And your basal metabolism rate. It's a lot easier living the infantry lifestyle, and it's a lot easier working a 9-5 job with lots of time for sports and other activities.

If you don't fall into one of those categories, or you're on a ship, or of you're a reservist who has to work two or three jobs plus the reserve gig to make ends meet, or you have to work 60 hours/week at a sedentary job, and/or you don't have any backup at home preparing healthy meals, it's not easy, by a long shot.

If it were easy, everyone would be making tape. It's OBVIOUSLY not easy. It's simple, yes... if calories in < cals out you will lose weight. But healthy weight loss is like warfare in that even simple things can be very difficult.

David said...

" But they know some people are in really good shape and unfortunately are just built wrong."

When I was young and quick, I played in a tennis tournament in Battle Creek. I was playing well and had won some matches.

My next opponent waddled out on the court, very substantially overweight and probably a little older than me also. We introduced ourselves.

Me: "I'm David, from Milwaukee."

He: "I'm George from Battle Creek, the fastest fat man in Michigan."

He was.

He kicked my butt.

Skyler said...

No one said it was easy, Jason. It's just a requirement. And the military needs people who are fit. There are always exceptions to the rule, but the military is built on the norm, not the exception.

RecChief said...

Skyler - I wouldn't call any of us who have been or still are either 0311s or 11Bs "normal"

have a great day

Jason said...


People say it's easy all the time. You need to get out more. There are people saying 'it's easy' on this very thread.

These people also don't understand selection bias.

TosaGuy said...


I've been infantry and I've been on a senior staff doing office work. I've been in all-male units and mixed-gender ones. I've been around a lot of soldiers.

Skyler is correct, the military is built to fit the norm, not the exception.

Perhaps they can be smarter about what the norm is, but for the vast majority, if one puts in the effort to be a soldier that meets the standard, then they will meet it.

Skyler said...

I should have said, "no one should expect it to be easy."

The ease of the standard is of no concern to me. I only want fit Marines fighting with me. We might all surge in and out of our peak condition, but these are the minimums and we expect that any fluctuations remain within that standard.

When I was a second lieutenant, way back in the mid 1980's I had a corporal working for me that was formerly on the Marine weight lifting team. He had been in Beirut, I believe, and was a great guy all around. He couldn't make the height and weight standards even though he scored very well on the physical fitness test. He was booted out. I'm very sorry for him, and I fought to save him and wish I could have saved him, but the rules are the rules are the rules. The truth is that he did put on a lot of weight after he stopped training for the weight lifting team, and it's very probable that he would have continued to gain weight. I'm guessing that he got really big when he left the service. He didn't adjust his diet to his new level of activity, and that's just the way it goes.

If we went to war, I know that the level of activity he would have been subjected to would have been a lot higher and I'm sure he would have been trim. But he didn't have the self-discipline to do it before the bullets started flying, and that's important.

Jason said...


I have precisely the same soldier qualifications you've got, except probably heavier on Green Tab time and light on staff time. Mostly reserve component, though, so I may have seen an even bigger cross section than you have.

I think we're arguing precisely that: Being smarter about what the "norm" is.

For example, a blanket waist size cap in the air force regardless of height or body composition is stupid sauce.

Jason said...

He scored very well on the physical fitness test?


Sounds like the standard was off kilter. Not the marine.

What did it cost the taxpayer to replace him?

Skyler said...

The country benefitted, Jason, from a Marine Corps that wasn't fat nor an object of ridicule to our foes.

Jason said...


Too funny.



Skyler said...

I didn't say the Marines don't have fatties. I'm willing to bet this Marine is pregnant (after 30 years it still strikes me as weird to see those words together) and thus immune to the height and weight standards, or you can be assured she is very close to being processed out.

Jason said...

Oh, spare me.

This shit reminds me of the old joke about the two catholics watching ministers and rabbis go into a whorehouse and lamenting the state of the clergy today, until they see a priest walk up the steps, and then say "oh, what a pity. One of the poor girls must be dyin!"

What probably happened in the photo you posted is a reserve component kid who got fat after finishing basic but got stop-lossed.

No idea what the issue is with the young lady in the bottom photo but it seems to be well-beyond pregnancy.

Both should be processed out if they aren't making substantial progress. Neither of them, however, strike me as likely competitive weightlifters. Indeed, they seem non-mission-capable at their current weights.

My objection isn't to getting rid of NMC personnel. My objection is to getting rid of people who clearly are mission-capable, such as your corporal.

It seems pretty rich to me for anyone to say 'well, this guy should have been more disciplined.' He obviously had the self-discipline to become a competitive weightlifter for the USMC team! That's way ahead of most people right there.

Now, again... what was the cost to the taxpayer to replace this guy?

TosaGuy said...

"For example, a blanket waist size cap in the air force regardless of height or body composition is stupid sauce."

You mistake the air force for the military ;)


ken in sc said...

The Air Force had already race and sex normed weight standards over 20 years ago, before I got out. Black females are allowed to weigh more than any other people of the same height in the Air Force.

That max waist measurement is new to me. Never heard of it. I wonder if it is race normed.

Skyler said...

Actually, that picture was taken overseas. I'm not sure where, but that is unmistakably a KBR messhall overseas.

The fat woman Marine could be anywhere and I guarantee you that she is pregnant. I'm not sure you understand the visceral hatred Marines have for fat. It is not really entirely rational, it's more of a religion in that regard.

Jason said...

Yeah, well, I'm not a big fan of irrationality, thanks. It's certainly not something to take pride in.

Jason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Skyler said...

I didn't say it was a good thing. It's just the way it is.

Jim Howard said...

It's interesting to look at the pictures of the guys who won World War II.

It's pretty certain that Curtis Lemay could not make Colonel in today's Air Force, nor could Leslie Groves in today's Army.

For that matter, what about General Schwarzkopf? Could he get promoted in today's Army?

I can only speak from my 20 years in the Air Force, you can gather any 7 general officers and have a great basketball team.

This team would be good at running events, but would not stand a chance at a 7th grade power lifting or shot put contest.

Is that good or bad? Are tall skinny people just the best breed of humans?

I don't know.

Unknown said...

When I was in fighting trim, I was 225.
Then I went in the military (USMC, 0341) and the maximum weight I was allowed to be was 180.
That was a problem.
The alternative measures were "at command discretion", and our command was not inclined towards discretion.

I carried over my share of the weight. I endured the regular humiliation and mandatory bonus duties associated with being a "fatbody". And at the end of my 4 years, I left with my middle finger raised high.

So yes, I have a great deal of hostility towards the military height/weight standards.