Obesity is a major health concern within the civilian population — and unfortunately, the military community isn't immune to weight issues, either. The problem extends from recruits to veterans of both genders in every branch. Approximately two out of every ten men and four out of every ten women of recruiting age are too heavy to enter the Military Services. Many overweight service members can't advance in the ranks and as a result miss out on the related pay and benefits.
Better nutrition and weight training are among the reasons why today's service members weigh significantly more than service members in the past. But eating too much and not exercising enough may be another reason for the weight increase. Today's pace of operations can make it hard for a service member to fit physical training in, even though it's a requirement of the job. The following information will help you understand how to "make weight" successfully.
Getting fit safely
The body composition measurement plays an important part in both physical capacity and health. The term "body composition" mainly refers to the distribution of muscle versus fat in the body. Excess body fat can lead to obesity, which can increase your risk of certain conditions and diseases — such as heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, and diabetes. The body composition test consists of a weigh-in and a height measurement. Service members who exceed the appropriate height and weight standards are measured for percentage of body fat.
The key to weight loss is simple eat less and exercise more. While it may be tempting to try unhealthy "quick fixes" for weight loss in order to make weight in a short period of time, it is much safer to drop pounds slowly. Avoid methods such as fasting, laxatives, or diet pills for losing weight.
You can make a good start toward healthy weight loss by learning the basics of good nutrition, as well as food labeling and company claims. For example, "low fat" doesn't mean "low calorie," and it's easy to gain weight by eating too many "low fat" snacks. Reach for fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid processed food. Here are more tips for healthy eating:
- Try to eat more frequent, smaller meals. Smaller, more frequent meals can help balance your calorie intake throughout the day and also can help to regulate your blood sugar level. Instead of eating three big meals a day, try eating five to six smaller ones. At a restaurant, consider splitting an order with someone else, or packaging half of your meal to take home for leftovers.
- Pack your own lunch. If your day allows for it, pack your own lunch so you can have more control over portion sizes and nutritional quality.
- Drink more water. In order to burn calories, the human body needs water: as a result of burning calories, the body creates toxins that the water flushes away. In addition, if you drink a glass of water before a meal, you'll feel fuller sooner and eat less.
- Stay away from junk- and fast-foods. While this seems pretty basic, there are still more people eating at fast food restaurants than ever before. Try to go rarely, and avoid "super-sized" meals. Better yet, order a salad with grilled chicken and a glass of water.
Professional organizations and government agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture, are good sources of worthwhile nutritional information.
If your Physical Training (PT) program isn't keeping weight off, then you should exercise more as well as change your diet. Try adding thirty to sixty minutes of physical activity each day to your workout routine. It can be hard to find time, but it's important to make more exercise a priority. Participating in group PT or working out regularly with a buddy can keep you motivated. An effective exercise regimen should consist of different types of exercise, including:
- Cardiovascular exercise — Incorporating cardiovascular exercise into your workout routine up to six times a week (forty-five minutes per day) is a great way to burn extra calories. Some examples of effective cardiovascular exercises include elliptical training, walking, jogging, swimming, rowing, and biking.
- Abdominal exercises — Try incorporating abdominal exercises into your routine twice a week. Sit-ups and crunches are good forms of abdominal exercise, but try adding exercises that incorporate rotational movements of your abdomen, as well. The internal and external oblique muscles are involved in rotating the "trunk" of the body. If you don't work these movements into your routine, you are only training one third of your abdominal muscles. And remember, no amount of abdominal exercises will make up for a poor diet. Six-pack abs are the result of both exercise and a lean diet.
- Muscle training — It's a good idea to incorporate weight-bearing exercises at least twice a week to burn additional unwanted calories. However, keep in mind that weight training means building more muscle and shrinking fat cells. Since muscle weighs more than fat, weight loss may not occur, but body fat percentages should go down. You could also try exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, lunges, squats, and crunches about three times a week to build muscle.
Possible administrative actions
- Privilege and promotion denial - When a service member is not within his healthy weight range, he may be denied any or all of the following: attendance at special schools, promotion, reenlistment, permanent change of station (PCS) orders, extensions, awards and decorations, bonus installments, and high-visibility assignments.
- Administrative discharge - Service members are subject to administrative separation if they don't achieve their healthy weight after probationary periods of weight programs and increased exercise. Timetables differ, so it's important to check with your commander for the specific regulations governing your branch.
Military weight programs
Each Service branch has weight-control programs designed to achieve healthy body weights. Service members who fail the body composition test are usually placed into these programs, but any service member can benefit from the education the programs provide. Service members who fail the test can also be referred to their medical providers for evaluation.
- Army. The Army has a weight-control program to help service members stay within healthy weight ranges. Weigh to Stay is a component of this program; its curriculum includes nutrition classes and weigh-ins, as well as information on supplementation, menu planning, behavior modification, and the importance of exercise. Also, see myhooah4health.
- Marine Corps. Marines who fail the body composition test are assigned to a Body Composition Program (BCP) and Remedial Physical Conditioning Program (RPCP). The BCP monitors the weight, body fat, and physical fitness conditioning of its participants, while the RPCP emphasizes healthy lifestyle choices, dietary guidelines, and areas of physical deficiency for participants. Also, see Semper Fit.
- Navy. Members of the Navy who fail the body composition assessment must participate in a Fitness Enhancement Program (FEP). It focuses on increasing and maintaining each participant's cardio-respiratory fitness, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility; helping service members reduce excess body fat; and providing nutritional guidance. ShipShape (look under Weight Management) is an additional eight-week program that isn't mandatory, but focuses on sailors who either don't meet body composition standards or are at risk of failing them. It provides basic information on nutrition, stress management, physical activity, and behavior-modification techniques.
- Air Force. Members of the Air Force who fail the body composition test must first attend a Healthy Living Program (HLP), followed by the Fitness Improvement Program (FIP). HLP is a workshop focusing on behavior modification, nutrition, and general fitness education, while FIP is a multi-session, individualized program designed to help participants change their lifestyles and maintain healthy weights.