Dallas Morning News Op Ed: The Military Should Lead The U.S. Fight against Obesity

By Steve Barrons, Dallas Morning News, 3/7/18

Rigorous physical training is a daily feature of military life, and yet the Military Times warns that the armed forces face a “huge problem with obesity” that is “only getting worse.” Maybe you’ve seen the headlines: “Too Fat to Fight,” or, closer to home, “Texas kids physically unfit for military,” but you probably don’t know the full extent of the problem.

Texas is among the states having the hardest time finding fit recruits. Obesity rates are higher than the national average, and poor fitness is leading to more injuries and fewer recruits ready for service.

How can it be? The answer is that nutrition, and not physical activity level, is the most important driver of weight. And with one in every 13 troops obese, costing the Pentagon an estimated $1 billion per year in added health care costs, according to the Military Times, the U.S. military is in desperate need of a more effective diet.

After 21 years in Special Operations, I know firsthand the need to be in top physical condition. Your body has to be able to take a considerable amount of pounding just to complete the long training pipeline required to become a Special Operator. Finding qualified candidates has become increasingly difficult due to the degenerating physical abilities of youth. I’ve seen potential candidates who eat a diet high in carbohydrates, especially sugar, perform well below the standard. But I’ve also seen that when a motivated candidate makes a diet change to a low-carb/high-fat way of eating, there is always a change in body composition and improvement in performance.

In many ways, the military’s situation is a reflection of the broader American obesity epidemic, caused by years of misguided and even dangerous “expert” dietary advice that has shaped not only the mealtime decisions of ordinary Americans but the recommendations of nearly all nutritionists, dietitians and medical doctors, including those in the military.

That advice, driven by the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, has largely stuck to the familiar low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet that calls on us to cut meat, butter and cheese. Yet in recent years, the science has evolved, and it has become increasingly clear to people like me that fats aren’t the enemy. Indeed, as I ate more fat and reduced my intake of sugars and other carbohydrates like grains, I lost weight and became healthier.

Read the full article at Dallas Morning News.

Steve Barrons is a retired U.S. Air Force Special Operations Combat Controller and a certified personal trainer.