Military personnel take extreme measures to meet body-fat and weight rules

interns Contributor
Font Size:

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Heather Sommerdyke spent $12,000 on two liposuction surgeries last spring. She was running eight to 10 miles, six days a week. She even switched to a starvation diet. It was all part of a last-ditch effort to trim her waistline to the 35.5-inch maximum for female airmen. She gave birth to her second child two years ago, and her midsection never quite recovered.

Sommerdyke is 5-foot-7 and has plenty of muscle and “the bone structure of a guy,” she said. She can pass the other portions of the Air Force’s strict physical training (PT) requirements: the run, the push-ups and the sit-ups. But her 37-inch waistline – not her weight – is her problem.

“I hate having to treat my body this way,” said Sommerdyke. “I lose strength and stamina, and it takes a toll on the mental health as well, which seems to be contrary to what we should really be pushing for: health and strength for flight-line work and deployments.”

It is no surprise that the military services require a high degree of physical fitness, and the vast majority of service members can pass those tests. But the military also has weight limits based on height, age and sex. If a soldier’s weight or waistline is over the limit during twice-a-year fitness testing, he or she is given two months to lose the excess.

Thirty-five percent of male soldiers do not meet the weight standards, and 6 percent of all soldiers exceed body-fat standards, according to a 2009 report published in the journal Military Medicine. The report said that about 24,000 Army personnel were discharged between 1992 and 2007 for failure to comply with weight standards.

Full Story: Military personnel take extreme measures to meet body-fat and weight rules