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Dr Adam Tattelbaum, a plastic surgeon based in Rockville, Maryland, said soldiers call him in a panic. "They come in panicked about being kicked out or getting a demerit that will hurt their chances at a promotion," he said. The Defence Department uses what is called a "tape test" to make a body fat estimate by taking measurements of the waist and neck. Those who fail are ordered to spend months in a vigorous exercise and nutrition programme, which Marines call the "pork chop platoon" or "doughnut brigade". Even if they later pass, failing the test once can halt promotions for years, service members say. Failing three times can be grounds for getting kicked out, according to military officials.
A number of fitness experts are calling for the fitness standards to be revamped. They say the Pentagon's weight tables are outdated and do not reflect that Americans are bigger, though not necessarily less healthy. Fitness expert Jordan Moon said there is no reliable, economical way to measure body fat, and troops should be judged more by physical performance so they are not feeling forced to go to such lengths to save their careers. "We're sending people away who could be amazing soldiers just because of two pieces of tape," said Mr Moon, who has a doctorate in exercise physiology.
Pentagon officials say the military does not condone surgically altering one's body to pass the test, though liposuction is not prohibited.