By Dr. Maurice Sherman, Del Mar Cosmetic Medical Center
According to an article in the AP, as the military downsizes because of budget cuts and the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, military members feel that they are under increased scrutiny and are afraid of losing their jobs. Failing the Pentagon’s body fat test (also known as the tape test) is one way that they can lose their jobs. So in this time of increased pressure, many soldiers are turning to crash diets—but there are also many who are turning to liposuction.
Defense officials claim the body fat test ensures the troops are prepared for combat, but many service members complain that the Defense Department's “tape test” method isn’t fair. The test measures height, weight and waist circumference, and soldiers protest that the test doesn’t just eliminate flabby physiques but also bulkier, muscular bodies. Some fitness experts affirms the soldiers’ complaints by claiming that the Pentagon's weight tables are outdated and do not reflect that changing body types of Americans, who may be bigger but not less healthy. Indeed, the insurance industry, as well as airlines and movie theaters realize that this generation and future generations are getting larger, taller, and more muscular, and more uncomfortable in conventional sized seats. Babies are larger at birth and grow faster due to better nutrition. It’s uncommon for grown offspring not to exceed their parents’ dimensions.
Ethnic variations also are not considered in military weight regulations, either. While serving in the Navy, I had to counsel many Hawaiians and Samoans about their apparent overweight condition. One gunny sergeant in the Marines told me he was about to be discharged short of his 20 years of service due to weight issues, although he passed all quarterly PT exams easily. “Have you ever seen a skinny Samoan, Doc” he moaned.
Although dismissal from the military is not guaranteed as a result from failing the test, there can be other serious consequences. Files indicate cases where Airmen who failed have fallen in rank. Furthermore, those who fail must spend months in an intense exercise and nutrition regime, which has been nicknamed by the Marines as the “pork chop platoon” and the “doughnut brigade.”
Consequently, some military members go on crash diets or workout to make their bodies more proportionate. However, some soldiers simply have the wrong genetics. These are the ones that, according to my experience as well as many other cosmetic surgeons, “come in panicked about being kicked out or getting a demerit that will hurt their chances at a promotion,”
Military members, both men and women, have actually had commanders recommend surgery such as liposuction to personnel in their command. They'll probably deny that if you ask them, but they know some people are in really good shape and unfortunately are just built wrong, and the military will lose extensively trained and competent soldiers who sometimes can’t be replaced easily or inexpensively.
At our cosmetic surgery office, we support our troops, treat them with the respect they deserve, and offer special pricing for active duty as well as family members. We also look forward to offering them in-depth education about these procedures, with individualized consultations to give them realistic expectations and help them discover what’s right for them.
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