This is according to Courtney Manning, a national security research fellow at the American Security Project (ASP) think tank, which released a report on the health of the U.S. Army on Thursday, Oct. 12. (Related: TOO FAT TO FIGHT: 10,000 U.S. Army soldiers are now too obese to serve… and a quarter of young men can't even qualify for recruitment.)
Each year, the U.S. military has to enlist about 175,000 people from the population to maintain their current numbers. Aside from dwindling interest among qualified individuals in joining the Armed Forces, military recruiters across the country grapple with an increase in applicants failing to meet the physical requirements for enlistment.
ASP's 2018 report, "Obesity: An Epidemic that Impacts our National Security," highlighted the detrimental effect of obesity on the recruiting crisis and the importance of military health and fitness on personnel readiness after finding that 44 percent of Americans aged 18 to 25 were too overweight to serve in the armed forces.
ASP's follow-up report in 2022, "Obesity's Increasing Threat to Military Readiness," explored the impact of the Wuhan coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic – with recommendations to "adjust requirements for specialized positions and expand pilot programs to increase enlistment of otherwise qualified applicants."
The latest October 2023 ASP report titled "Combating Military Obesity: Stigma's Persistent Impact on Operational Readiness," indicated that "assumptions that overweight people are unmotivated, incompetent or weak-willed cause individuals and services to conceal, obscure and downplay military obesity."
The new report added that social stigma on military obesity has historically "resulted in policies that emphasize individual responsibility and self-discipline over evidence-based research on weight management."
The report continued that "while much of this behavior is well-intentioned, treating obesity as a "deviant behavior" and not as a "chronic disease" increases comorbid medical conditions, injury, permanent separation from military service and all-cause mortality across the services" – the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
"At a time when we are struggling to recruit an adequate labor force for the military, the growing rates of obesity are especially alarming. No person defending our country should find themselves unsupported and unequipped to fight a personal battle against obesity," said ASP Chief Operating Officer Matthew Wallin.
The ASP's white paper recommends that the Armed Forces consider obesity a chronic disease across all branches to enforce the proper treatment of it, including referring obese or overweight servicemembers to credentialed obesity physicians.
The military should also promote awareness of the harmful effects of obesity, especially for servicemembers engaged in combat missions.
Furthermore, the report recommends reviewing body composition standards, as the ASP claims the BMI tends to underestimate obesity compared to more high-tech body fat measurement devices.
The BMI is based on a 200-year-old calculation that sought to define what a "normal man's" body composition should be. It has been criticized in recent years for its "historical harms" and its exclusion of non-White body types.
Watch the following video about Army soldiers becoming obese during the pandemic.
This video is from the Daily Videos channel on Brighteon.com.