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The U.S. Army is trimming the fat, due to the alarming number of soldiers who are grossly overweight. Why? Because the battle of the bulge has now become the leading cause of ineligibility for enlistment as one in four adults are just too fat to join the military, reports the Washington Post.

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According to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, in just over a 12-year period from 1998 to 2010, the number of active-duty military personnel has tripled, with 86,186 troops being labeled as obese.

A mind-boggling 20 percent of all male recruits and 40 percent of female recruits are too overweight to enter the military ranks. In order to join the military, new recruits have to shed pounds so that they can pass the minimum requirements in both  height/weight measurements as well as any physical fitness tests.

Between 1995 and 2008, the military had 140,000 individuals who showed up at recruiting centers but failed their entrance physical because of their weight.

The fat trend has prompted the military to consider some drastic changes in its training programs and is forcing the hand of commanders to get rid of those who are deemed too fat for a foxhole.  So far this year alone, more than 1,600 soldiers were given the military boot out of the Army for tipping the scales, which is 16 times greater than the number of military personnel who were ousted in 2007.

“A healthy and fit force is essential to national security,” Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Pentagon spokesperson who was interviewed by the Washington Post.  “Our service members must be physically prepared to deploy on a moment’s notice anywhere on the globe to extremely austere and demanding conditions.”

Currently around 70 percent of the U.S. population is overweight or obese, and a Johns Hopkins study predicts that number will climb to 86 percent in the next 20 years.  Being overweight in the military is a huge hurdle.  Troops have to sprint, climb, walk long distances, go through obstacles while wearing ammunition, body armor, and supplies that weigh 50 pounds or more.

The military health insurance system, TRICARE, already doles out $1.1 billion a year for obesity-related illnesses.

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