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The Physicians Committee



Too Fat to Fight: Plant-Based Diet Could Slim Down Military Recruits

Many military recruits are too overweight to enlist. But in a letter to the armed forces, PCRM offered recruiters Vegetarian Starter Kits to combat obesity.

PCRMs Military Vegetarian Starter Kit“It is not too late for the overweight young people showing up at your recruiting stations,” writes PCRM nutrition education director Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., in her letter to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Instead of turning away a quarter of your potential recruits because they are too heavy, why not arm them with information on how to improve their health?”

A study by Mission: Readiness, an organization made up of retired generals, admirals, and other senior members of the U.S. Armed Forces, found that more than 27 percent of Americans ages 17 to 24 are too overweight to enroll in the military. Being overweight or obese is the leading medical reason why hopeful candidates are turned down by military recruiting centers, the study revealed.

PCRM has designed a special edition of its Vegetarian Starter Kit for distribution at military recruitment centers. The kit’s cover depicts an overweight man clutching a cheeseburger and eyeing a trimmer, fitter reflection of himself, apple in hand, and dressed in a military uniform. It offers an easy, three-step way to go vegetarian, as well as advice on topics like achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, changing regular meals into low-fat vegetarian meals, and the new four food groups.

“Our sole desire is to provide information regarding another dietary option for improving the health and fitness of our future United States soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen,” writes Katherine Lawrence, 1st lieutenant, USAF (sep.), in a letter to Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood. “We believe that this approach will both increase the health and fitness of recruits and reduce health care costs for our military.” Lawrence is also a cooking instructor for PCRM’s Food for Life classes.

Another study released last month by researchers at Cornell University says obesity costs the military billions of dollars in job absenteeism and health care spending, and has been linked to poor performance.

The benefits of a vegetarian diet are well-documented: Switching to a plant-based diet speeds up weight loss and lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar, among other health benefits.

Download a free copy of the special edition of the Vegetarian Starter Kit (PDF).



Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.

Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.


PCRM Online, November 2010

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