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New rules cut loopholes for body fat

Jul. 8, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Tape measure
Tape measure (Thomas Northcut / Getty Images)
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What’s allowed

Although the Army has gotten tougher on enforcing weight standards, the rules stay in place for body-fat allowances. The standards:
Men20 percent for age 17-20
22 percent for age 21-27
24 percent for age 28-39
26 percent for age 40 and older
Women30 percent for age 17-20
32 percent for age 21-27
34 percent for age 28-39
36 percent for age 40 and older

A major revision of Army Regulation 600-9 imposes strictrules for dealing with overweight soldiers.

A major revision of Army Regulation 600-9 imposes strictrules for dealing with overweight soldiers.

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A major revision of Army Regulation 600-9 imposes strict rules for dealing with overweight soldiers.

Don’t worry — the height/weight scale hasn’t changed, though leadership now requires all scales used for weight measurement to be calibrated annually for accuracy.

The change: No loopholes anymore. Policies and All Army Activities are brought under one umbrella with specific requirements on soldiers and commands.

A commander now has three working days to “flag” a soldier who fails to meet standards and two working days from that to notify and enroll the soldier in the Army Body Composition Program. A soldier who is flagged is not promotable; will not be assigned to command, command sergeant major or first sergeant positions; and is not authorized to attend military schools or institutional training courses.

Within two weeks of enrollment, the soldier must schedule an appointment with a dietitian or health care provider and complete a Soldier Action Plan.

Monthly ABCP assessments will follow, where soldiers will be expected to lose three to eight pounds or one percentage point of body fat each month. A soldier who fails to meet this goal three times will be shown the door.

Soldiers with a validated temporary medical condition that directly causes weight gain or prevents weight or body-fat loss will have six months to undergo treatment to resolve the condition. A physician can extend the period to 12 months. The soldier will continue to participate in the ABCP but will not be penalized for failing to show progress.

But this is no “Get Out of PT Free” card. A medical condition that prevents physical training is no excuse. “The inability to exercise does not directly cause weight gain,” the regulation said.

The new regulation also includes an appendix that looks to curb unhealthy weight-loss measures.

“In order to meet Army body-fat standards and avoid losing their careers, soldiers may resort to dangerous tactics,” it says. “This limits the body’s ability to function effectively and hinders physical and cognitive performance. While some weight-loss diets may be harmless, others could result in adverse effects that may compromise the health of the soldier. These diets usually fail in the end and may start a vicious cycle of weight loss and weight regain.”

Some of the 16 changes, which became official June 28, are minor. For example, the regulation’s name changed from the Army Weight Control Program to the Army Body Composition Program.

Some changes add a link to the chain, such as a requirement that the deputy chief of staff for operations and plans establish training guidance to support the program.

Others reflect a changing Army. The policy renders some soldiers exempt, though they must “maintain a soldierly appearance.” They include:

■ Soldiers with major limb loss (an amputation above the ankle or above the wrist).

■ Soldiers on established “continued on active duty” and/or “continued on active Reserve status.”

■ Pregnant and postpartum soldiers.

■ Soldiers who have undergone prolonged hospitalization for 30 continuous days.

■ New recruits, who will have 180 days from entry to meet standards.

■ Soldiers who are granted a temporary exception under unique circumstances.

Gone is the annual requirement to collect and maintain data on everything weight-related, as well as the piles of paperwork required to attend institutional training or administratively separate a fat body.

The appendix directs leaders to be on the lookout for “unsafe weight loss strategies” and provides warnings against such behavior as:

■ “Fasting or starvation. Crash dieting, fasting, or starvation reduces weight, but also slows down the body’s metabolism and forces the body to utilize lean muscle or organs for energy. Prolonged fasting can lead to decrease in muscle endurance and loss of strength and power. Coupled with fluid restriction, the dangers of dehydration are also a factor.”

■ “Water loss or forced dehydration. Since the body is 75 percent water, this is the easiest way to lose weight (2 cups water equals 2 pounds). Most common practices to lose water weight include fluid restriction, exercising in hot and humid conditions, and the use of saunas, ‘sauna suits,’ or diuretics. Risks of dehydration include irritability, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, organ failure, and death.”

■ “Abuse of diuretics and/or laxatives. Used to reduce further the body of excess ‘weight.’ This method combines all the risks of dehydration and starvation by depriving the body of fluids and nutrition.”

■ “Vomiting and/or purging. May lead to dehydration and can be self-induced or with emetics (laxatives) that stimulate the response. This method combines all the risk of dehydration and starvation by depriving the body of fluids and nutrition.”

■ “Use of diet or weight loss pills (appetite suppressants, metabolism boosters, fat burners). Many of these supplements can be lethal, especially when taken before heightened physical activity. Others may result in serious side effects like liver damage, kidney problems, heart failure, stroke, or extreme dehydration. Supplements may have negative interactions with medications, other supplements, or existing medical conditions. The supplement may not have been proven to have any effect on weight loss.”

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