BATTLE OF THE BULGE
1 in 5 troops are too fat to fight I HELP OTHERS WIN WAR
A RECORD 30,529 of our troops are overweight and at a “high or very high risk” of ill health.
Thousands have had official warnings they are at risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and cancer due to their weight.
And at least 17,600 have also been diagnosed as clinically obese, according to a Freedom of Information request by the Sunday People.
The revelation means 20 per cent of troops are dangerously overweight.
Defence chiefs privately believe they are losing the battle of the bulge and have to face the prospect that the armed forces features thousands of troops who are, literally, not fighting fit.
One senior officer said: “We have a major problem with obesity and it is currently undermining our operational effectiveness. You can’t fight and win wars with fat soldiers. Despite trying to introduce healthy diets, a lot of soldiers are still eating pie and chips every day.”
Almost 400 armed forces personnel – mainly soldiers – are currently serving with type 2 diabetes, the form of the disease linked to lifestyle choices.
The FOI request also revealed at least 116 were prescribed diet pills in the past 12 months. And the document shows 16 people had liposuction treatment in the year to this July.
In total 17,117 soldiers, 6,401 sailors and 7,011 members of the RAF had a Body Composition Measure placing them in either a high risk or extreme risk of serious ill health.
The BCM takes into account both the waistline and the Body Mass Index.
Of troops facing serious health risk, up to 17,600 were shown to have a BMI greater than 30, officially classing them JAMES Tilley was 17st when he was 16 and would regularly eat up to 5,000 calories a day.
But he shed 6.5st in three months to join the Royal Marines – and is now helping others get in shape after opening his own gym.
When James, 25, from Wiltshire, finished school his stepfather suggested joining the Marines as a way to turn his life around. After shedding his weight and passing the tests, he served from 2011 to 2015. He says he now sticks to a strict high-protein die and an exercise regime.
As a teen he ate past the point of feeling full, which left him unhappy and unmotivated.
James said: “I was always the funny fat kid in class but in reality, I
as obese. Commanding officers of infantry units have introduced “fat clubs” to help tubby soldiers shed pounds.
Hundreds of soldiers, sailors and airmen have also been given Fitbit bracelets to help them shed fat and thousands have been placed on special diets.
In the past six years, the MOD was forced to sack at least 20 soldiers who were chronically overweight and unable to pass basic fitness tests. Of those, two were more than 22 stone, three were over 20 stone, three topped 17 stone and the was miserable. I never wanted to leave the house and wouldn’t go swimming because I felt too embarrassed.”
He added that there were no quick fixes to losing weight, saying: “It’s determination and consistency that got me this far and I will continue pushing to better myself and motivate others.”
lightest were two men at 15 stone and a woman of around 13 stone.
Troops are supposed to have carefully managed fitness routines, requiring them to do at least four hour-long sessions of training a week.
They also have a diet that can range from 2,500 calories a day to more than 7,000 depending on their demands and whether they are on desk or combat duty. Much of the blame has been placed on troops’ diets and the growing obesity problem in society in general.
Troops can eat three cooked meals a day and choose to start with a full English breakfast followed by two hefty meals that include chips and puddings.
Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: “The figures are very concerning, particularly the one for type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable.
“The taxpayer has a right to expect anyone in public service whose duty it is to respond to an emergency are fit for purpose. The responsibility must rest with the brass that commands them.” The disclosure comes days after it emerged the Ministry of Defence is introducing fitness tests for
troops with no pass or fail.
The current Personal Fitness Assessment, in which soldiers must reach certain targets to be eligible to go to war, will be replaced by the Soldier Conditioning Review. A leaked MOD document states: “The SCR is not a critical test but results may indicate the need for additional fitness training.” Unlike other tests, the annual SCR will apply to all regular and reserve personnel and may include activities like a 2km run, 30m sprints, pull-ups, vertical jumps and a deadlift. The document describes the SCR as an “in-service diagnostic tool” to rank fitness levels on a scale of one to ten. But critics suspect the change has been driven in part by the need to retain existing personnel and attract recruits. Numbers in the armed forces have sunk to their lowest level since the Napoleonic Wars and the Army is said to be 4,000 short of the 82,000 it needs to be an effective fighting force.
WELL FED: Troops get 3 meals a day RESPONSIBILITY: Tam Fry WHO DARES THINS: Troop weight battle