When a quarter of a nation’s otherwise eligible citizens cannot reach a healthy enough weight to serve their country, it becomes clear that obesity is systemic threat in the United States.
If Americans are not healthy enough to join the army, they are not healthy enough to be Olympic stars or bankers or middle school teachers. Every job in America is important, and needs to be filled with energetic, capable people. For that to happen, the general conversation about food and healthy choices needs to change.
The military suggests putting healthier choices in school vending machines and cafeterias. While this would certainly help by influencing children early on, it is far from a perfect solution. Children do not eat all of their meals at school, and they grow into adults that must make their own nutrition decisions.
In order for children to grow into fit adults capable of serving their country, unhealthy food must be treated as a dangerous substance. Just as the increased coverage of the harmful health effects of cigarettes has gradually made them less socially acceptable, fatty foods need to enter the American psyche as “bad for you” at a young age in order to prevent obesity in children.
Implementing other changes, such as banning fast food companies from advertising geared specifically towards children and emphasizing proper nutrition and frequent exercise, would go a long way to prevent the 25% of Americans too fat to serve from becoming overweight in the first place.
By first recognizing this alarming trend in military fitness, Americans can work towards fixing the issue. A solution would necessitate a society-wide shift in the attitude toward food and exercise.
Obesity exists, on television, in the military, and at the store down the street. There is no sense in trying to hide it away or shame individuals who suffer from it. But before America can defend itself from outside threats, it has to make a greater effort to defend itself from the widespread acceptance of unhealthy food.