I don’t know what it is about being a veteran and being overweight. The vast majority of veterans I know personally are overweight, and many are obese. I’ve been watching with great sadness as the number of veterans I see facing serious weight-related health issues rises. The number of veterans I know who have passed away at an early age due to weight-related health issues is entirely too high.
We need to stop this. Now.
First, let’s dispel one bad piece of information the military taught us: PT will keep you thin and fit. PT will keep you fit, but it will not necessarily keep you thin. Diet does that.
Second, we need to tackle an area that the military did a poor job of teaching us: diet. We were given a very rudimentary nutritional education and we were told things like oatmeal and whole grains are good for us. Go to any chow hall, DFAC, or mess hall and you will find it filled with whole grain options. The military, with all it’s high-tech weaponry and computer equipment is stuck in the 50’s as it pertains to nutrition.
When I left the Marines, I very quickly gained a lot of weight. So did many of my brothers and sisters from the service. We found the lack of PT coupled with jobs that had us sitting all day contributed to a rapid weight gain. Before we knew it, our weight was out of control, and the prospect of doing enough PT to make it all go away seemed unappealing, at best. Had someone told me about the Paleo Diet back in 1997, I’d have surely adopted it.
But I didn’t. And I continued to gain weight until I weighed nearly 312 lbs, and like many veterans in my predicament, I began to exhibit some symptoms of Type-2 Diabetes. I began having some nerve issues in my feet and legs, circulation issues, and even enzyme levels consistent with Fatty Liver Disease. I was unable to bend over to tie my own shoes without holding my breath. Something had to change.
While I was experiencing these health issues myself, I began watching veterans I served with coming down with all sorts of health issues related primarily to their weight. Then, even more frighteningly, I began watching them die.
We rightfully place a lot of emphasis on the mental health of our veterans and fortunately, society is coming around on how we view PTSD, how we recognize it, and how we treat it. Suicide prevention among active duty and veterans is finally getting the attention it deserves, and I hope that anyone who ever feels like they are slipping into the abyss reaches out for some help.
But something I feel strongly about is that we’re allowing our veterans to fade away and die too young due to poor health due to a lack of proper diet and fitness. Many veterans have bodies too broken to do a regular PT program that would be sufficient enough to keep their weight down. These same veterans don’t know about how effective diet is to control weight without starvation, without having to skip meals or eat tiny meals, and in a way that is healthy and sustainable in the long-term.
I believe firmly that our veterans deserve better in regards to nutrition and fitness after they separate from our armed forces. I am working behind-the-scenes to do something about it, and in the coming weeks, I hope to be able to announce what I’m working on. It will be exciting!
Until then, if you’re an overweight veteran, I am asking nicely that you look into some diet and fitness options and improve your health. The next time I write about it, I won’t be so nice.