Soldiers Are Turning to Liposuction to Pass Outdated Military Fat Test

Because it’s not just middle-aged housewives and Farrah Abraham turning to plastic surgery these days, the number of soldiers going in for liposuction has skyrocketed. Plastic surgeon Adam Tattelbaum says he gets panicked calls for the procedure, and fast.

“They come in panicked about being kicked out or getting a demerit that will hurt their chances at a promotion,” Dr. Tattelbaum said. They need the excess fat around their middles gone pronto in order to pass the Pentagon’s body fat test, which some say is outdated and may label bulky, muscular builds as “fat.”


The Defense Department uses the “tape test” to determine body fat by taking neck and waist measurements and comparing them. Soldiers who fail the tape test are ordered to what Marines have dubbed the “pork chop platoon” or “donut brigade.” It’s months of vigorous exercise and a nutrition program.

Even after military “fat camp,” promotions can be halted for years, and failing three times can be grounds for getting kicked out.

In the last five years alone, the number of Army soldiers kicked out for being overweight has jumped from 168 in 2008 to 1,815 this year.

Fitness expert Jordan Moon says that 90 percent of professional football players would fail the tape test, “because it’s made for a normal population, not big guys.”

More from The Stir: Soldiers Turned Away From Serving in Military for Being Obese

The military sites studies showing a correlation between waist size, body fat, and endurance to defend their use of the tape test. They say it is “the best, most cost-effective tool available, with a margin of error of less than one percent.”

Still, it seems ridiculous that soldiers would be relying on liposuction to keep from getting booted from the military. Lipo won’t help them pass the requisite physical tests; so presumably, they’re in good enough shape to pass those already. The belly fat then becomes purely cosmetic. Is that what this is about? We only want soldiers to look a certain way? Tell you what, if I’m a hostage in a war zone, I don’t care what a soldier's waist-to-neck ration is, so long as he can get me out of there.

The Air Force has taken notice that there may be exceptions when soldiers fail the tape test but are still extremely capable airmen. They obtained a waiver from the Pentagon allowing soldiers who pass fitness exams but fail the tape test to be measured using the Body Mass Index.

Good on them. I’m all for physical standards for the troops, since they have some of the most demanding jobs on the planet, but let’s keep it real and keep them out of plastic surgery, mmmkay?

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Image via Bob Krist/Corbis

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