Liposuction, Laxatives: Military Struggles to Make Weight

"Even though I technically look within standards, they will see I'm over my max [weight]," he said. "They will always prefer others over me."

He said like other marines he's "done it all" to lose the remaining few pounds. He said he's taken supplements, and tried almost every diet. He's worked out in a plastic suit atop his clothes to sweat out the weight. But all to no avail.

And these practices are no different among other military branches. The Military Times has reported extreme weight loss practices within both the Army and Air Force as well.

"It's hard on our training staff because we want to get them there the healthy way. But we do know that there are short cuts," said Christi Lee, lead trainer for the Marine Corp base in Quantico, Va., who heads a body composition program.

Lee said starvation and laxatives are the two most common unhealthy methods she's seen among Marines. While Lee said BCP has worked for most Marines placed in the program, she agreed some fear they'll be judged by their comrades and command.

"Some don't like the fact that the command is looking over them," she said. "They don't want to be singled out by command."

Liposuction: Costs and (Retirement) Benefits

Liposuction costs about $3,000 out of pocket. But for many, the cost could mean a final promotion and a higher retirement pay.

"The most common are those who are just about to make 20 years and need to push for retirement benefits. That's the only people for whom it makes economic sense," said Peterson. "We don't see people who just signed up or those who are in for 21 years."

Peterson's website advertises cosmetic procedures directly to the military, offering servicemembers a $500 discount on their first liposuction procedure. His site even includes testimonials for liposuction and other cosmetic procedures.

In fact, liposuction is beccoming such an appealing option that Peterson named a couple other specialists that advertise specifically to the military community.

"From the marine's perspective it's a perfect reasonable thing to do and a good investment," said Peterson.

Ability vs. Appearance

Methods such as skin folds or underwater measurements are a more accurate assessment of body fat percentage, but taping seems the fastest and most cost efficient method to weigh-in.

"It's well motivated but it doesn't work for a subgroup of people," said James Sanborn, managing editor of the Marine Corps Times, who first reported the trend.

According to Sanborn, the military offered some leeway to height and weight standards barring an exceptional performance on a physical test. But since an increase in recruitment rates in 2008, the military has tightened up the taping standards.

And according to Lee, those with increased muscle weight have suffered the consequences.

"They can be the strongest, fastest person you've ever seen, but they're body composition might be different. They may have muscles in different region," said Lee.

Torres, who most recently served in Iraq, said while the standards remain stringent on the homefront, the numbers don't mean a thing during deployments. All the more reason to judge ability over appearance, he said.

"I'd rather serve with someone who could carry me out of a fire fight than someone who can't carry their own pack," said Torres.

Until the mode of measurement or the standards change, many in the military may continue unnatural and sometimes dangerous practices to lose weight, he said.

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