The nation’s obesity epidemic presents real problems for the Armed Forces.
Recent surveys indicate more than a quarter of adults ages 17 to 24 are ineligible to serve because of their weight. At the same time, 5 percent of active service members are overweight, about double the rate in the mid-1990s. The military discharges about 1,200 first-term service members a year because of weight related issues.
The government is aiming to reverse the trends with a new health and nutrition initiative designed to help service members and their families take a more active role in their own health and well being.
Last month, officials announced a new initiative through the Military Health System (MHS) to educate service members on weight loss and nutrition. The program is designed to help members and their families take a more active role in their own health and well-being.
In addition to education, the Department of Defense is looking at a complete overhaul of military dining facility menus in order to provide healthier food choices to military personnel.
In addition, the Pentagon spends over $1 billion a year in obesity-related medical care. This nutrition campaign is designed to lower those costs by limiting the occurrence of preventable illness for active duty and retired military alike.
First Lady Michelle Obama has stepped forward as one of the leading proponents of this change. Addressing a group of airmen during a base tour, she said, “Simply put, this is America’s entire military once again stepping forward to lead by example.”
Under the new program, 1,100 stateside military dining facilities serving 1.5 million troops will offer more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It has been 20 years since the last menu change.
The Army has also begun to conduct nutrition education in basic training.
The fight against obesity in the military is a war that is won at home.
Military spouses can lead the way, helping to make sure healthier food choices are available at home as well as in the workplace. Good habits can include:
- Drinking water instead of soda
- Eating more fish/leaner meats
- Switching to skim milk
- Choosing smaller portions (a trick to this can be to use smaller plates)
Encouraging a more active lifestyle can also make a big difference. Some easy ideas you might try:
- Walking/biking instead of driving whenever possible
- Doing pushups/situps in front of the TV
- Taking the stairs instead of the escalator
- Running/playing with your kids
Finding meals and activities that you enjoy will help you stick with them. Please share your own ideas in the comments section!
Photo courtesy of The National Guard