I Was Thrown Out of the Army Under the Old Standards Because I Was Too Fit. The New Standards Are a Step Forward!
2023/08/09

I am a 2013 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. I was discharged in 2015 for being too fat.

At the academy, I did CrossFit, Zumba and Spin; trained with a marathon runner; trained in boxing, judo and Army Combatives; took classes in mountain biking, snowboarding and lifeguarding; participated in open events that ran the gamut from ruck marching to rock climbing; and was on the intramural combat grappling and wrestling teams. I also aced my fitness tests and required physical classes.

And yet, every year, I was under threat of separation for being too fat, or rather, for being too muscular, because the tape test that was in use at the time didn't care about body composition but only measured pure size.

I would go on extreme diets of plain yogurt and celery, only drinking four ounces of water every two hours. I went to the post "health store" and spent hundreds of dollars on pills, powders, shakes and cleanses "guaranteed to shed the weight." The night before tapings, I smeared my stomach and buttocks with hemorrhoid cream and wrapped myself in plastic wrap, slipping self-heating hand warmers in the layers, to dry out the water weight.

Sure, I lost weight. But my fitness test scores suffered, my academics suffered, my personality suffered. I was snappish and stupid, my brain unable to concentrate on anything other than when I could eat next or when I could sleep.

At the time, if a soldier did not make tape, he or she was instantly on the Army Weight Control Program (AWCP) and was required to lose a certain amount of weight or body fat percentage in three months or they would be discharged.

It didn't matter whether you had 12-pack abs or could lift 100-plus pounds. If your waist measurement was too big, according to the chart, you were fat. It did not matter how well the soldier performed in their tasks or on the fitness test. Even if you scored the maximum (or beyond) points, if you failed tape, you were fat. And if you were fat, you were clearly a worthless, lazy, disgusting slob who had no discipline or self-control.

I tried to make it work. I tried every diet I could, even going so far as to eat only dairy-free, egg-free, meat-free, sugar-free and gluten-free foods. I would get up at 0400 to go to a CrossFit gym, then the company physical fitness at 0600, do a swimming workout on my lunch hour, go running for the AWCP afternoon session, then go home and do several exercise videos to slim and tone my body.

I did graduate from West Point, but then came being an officer.

After only a year, dealing with Military Police Officer Basic and my first (and last) posting to Fort Riley, Kansas, I realized I couldn't sustain it. As an officer on the AWCP, I was forbidden from duties and activities that did not focus solely on losing weight. I couldn't even pull gate duty. When you're on the AWCP, your only job is to lose weight.

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