Obesity is a huge problem in America that has already reached the ranks in the Army. Look inside any Army Reserve or Army National Guard unit and you will quickly discover that 15% up to 40% of the unit is overweight and unable to pass the height/weight standards and/or APFT. Obesity is a huge problem that really affects the readiness of the ARNG and USAR.
As a part-time Army leader, you have a HUGE challenge solving this issues, because you aren’t training with your Soldiers every day like the Active Duty Army does. That being said, there are still a few things you can do to help your overweight Soldiers. Here is what I recommend you do:
# 1 FLAG Your Overweight Soldiers
As a leader, you need to ensure your overweight soldiers are flagged. I truly believe that FLAGGING them is taking care of them. By doing so, you show them that you are serious about enforcing the Army Standards. It also shows your overweight Soldiers that if they want to advance their career they need to get in shape and drop those excess pounds. If you don’t do this, you show your Soldiers that being overweight and not meeting the Army standards really isn’t that big of a deal.
# 2 Educate Them
Consider giving your overweight Soldiers a class about losing weight and the side effects of being obese. Bring in a doctor, personal trainer or weight loss expert to share some weight loss tips with them. There is also a FIT-P program in most states that offer “wellness” and “weight loss” classes for overweight Soldiers.
# 3 Work with Them Personally
If you live within close proximity of your Soldiers you can do PT with them. Consider starting a fitness group outside of drill weekend, where you all get together 1-2 days a week to exercise. If that’s not possible, ask your Soldier if they want you to help them personally. Let them know that you are there for them. Teach them what you know, come up with a weight loss challenge together, or do something creative. It’s easier to lose weight when you have a support group.
# 4 Do PT during Drill Weekend
It amazes me how many ARNG and USAR units do not do PT during drill weekend. As a small unit leader, you must incorporate physical fitness into every drill weekend. SHOW your Soldiers that it is a top priority. If the training calendar is full, do PT before or after drill weekend. By doing so, you might encourage your overweight Soldiers to start exercising on their own even more. And if nothing else, at least you are setting a good example during drill weekend.
# 5 Be Positive, Not Negative
Scientific studies have consistently showed that being negative does NOT help the person lose weight (source). I think it would be in your best interest to be positive with your Soldiers. By all means, hold your Soldiers accountable to the standards. But when your Soldiers make progress and drop some weight, even if it is just one pound, congratulate them. Tell them you are proud of them and are happy that they are making progress. Look for ways to reinforce good behaviors and you will get more of them.
In summary, these are five simple ways that Army Leaders can help their overweight Soldiers lose weight. At the end of the day, you are very limited as an Army National Guard or Army Reserve leader, because you only train with your Soldiers a couple days each month. The best thing that you can do is to (1) be a good personal example and stay in shape yourself, (2) educate your Soldiers about obesity and weight loss, (3) work with your overweight Soldiers personally, (4) do PT during drill weekend and (5) be positive, not negative.
What are your thoughts? What do you do to help your overweight Soldiers lose weight? Leave a comment and let us know.