Rising obesity rates are affecting more than America’s health. Expanding waist lines are creeping into the U.S. military. The problem costs the government millions of dollars and limits our nation’s recruitment efforts.
A recent study reveals that the problem of obesity in the military is growing at an alarming rate. The proportion of recruits rejected for being overweight jumped from 12 to 21 percent between 1995 and 2008. The military also discharges more than 1,200 enlistees each year due to weight problems. Compounding the issue, it costs the military about $50,000 per person – or $60 million – to recruit and train replacements.*
Lee Kern is the clinical director of Structure House, where he is active in Workplace Initiatives, post-surgery and binge eating programs. As a psychotherapist and obesity expert, he is well aware of the growing problem of obesity in the military.
“For many members of the military, weight gain jeopardizes their careers,” said Kern. “These soldiers have to identify the underlying reasons behind overeating and address the psychological and behavioral changes needed for life-long success.”
“Back in 2009, an officer with the Missouri National Guard came to Structure House because she needed to lose weight or be in danger of losing her rank,” said Kern. “After successfully losing weight, the officer recommended the program to others in her unit.”
The Missouri National Guard had been taking steps to combat the problem. In 2010, they developed the Warrior Spirit Training Program, a two-week training course that provides guidance in nutrition and fitness.
Leaders within the Missouri National Guard came to Structure House for a three-day retreat in order to evaluate the potential broader benefits of incorporating the program’s weight loss approach into the medical, nutritional and fitness programs they already had in place for the Warrior Spirit Training program. They concluded that Kern and Structure House added a final vital piece to their training regimen – the behavioral weight loss component. The updated program went into effect last year and results have been impressive.
Since then, Kern has led Warrior Spirit Training sessions in Fort Leonard Wood, teaching courses in psycho-education on the following topics: getting structured, understanding triggers, the power of self-monitoring, lifestyle change, stress management, motivation and emotional eating. Six weeks after the first seminar, the group of 46 soldiers lost 356 pounds combined, and the average body composition dropped 2.6 percent. It’s a good start, and Kern just returned from Missouri following the most recent training session.
Kern observed, "There are many similarities between the training we are providing the National Guard and the corporate Workplace Initiatives for weight loss we are now providing. In both cases, we are teaching people strategies for managing food, weight and lifestyle issues in their day-to-day lives. It is a way of taking what we have learned from our residential setting and putting it into real world practice."
Retired four-star General Barry McCaffrey, a senior advisor to Structure House’s parent company, CRC Health Group, commented, “It is crucial to address the obesity problem in our nation’s military as a matter of national security. If thousands of young men and women are too overweight to enlist – or become too obese to continue their service – we will have a true crisis on our hands. Structure House’s work to address this problem is commendable and, ideally, other military units will follow the lead of the Missouri National Guard.”
“It is very gratifying to partner with the Missouri National Guard to share the Structure House approach and see the signs of progress being made by our soldiers,” added Kern. “I hope the civilian world follows the lead of the military in making these healthy lifestyle changes.”
Labels: press release
Posted By: Structure House