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Skinny fat people need self-motivation in a peacetime Army

Commentary By Sgt. Margaret Taylor, 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment


I turned to one side, then the other, and sighed at my reflection in the mirror. “I’m fat.” I poked at the skin on my arm. Yep, there’s definitely a wobble there. My reflection was flabby. I was flabby. Not overweight, but very out of shape: skinny and fat at the same time. That’s not a happy state to be in with an Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) coming up.

To add to the pressure, my command had just reminded us about the Army’s revised retention posture, which came into play in 2013 and is expected to last through 2017. To shift to a leaner, peacetime fighting force, the Army intends to take a closer look at who is in the service, and trim the excess (i.e., mandate separations). Part of the ‘to trim or not to trim’ determination would come from enforcing tighter physical fitness standards for regular and reserve Soldiers.

No more coddling: Pass that APFT or get out.

Would a skinny fat girl like me continue to have a place in this Army?
I haven’t always been so blubbery. As I stared in dismay at my reflection, though, I realized things had reached a tipping point. My physique was due in part to laziness, in part to poor diet, in part to injury (bad backs – yeah, they suck), but the decline was of my making.

Perhaps I could squeak by with a minimal pass in my APFT, but would the minimum be good enough? Mediocrity is a terrible thing, and I can only imagine a promotion board looking at my packet one day and saying, “This Taylor…she’s okay. But this Soldier over here is awesome.” And being ‘okay’ wouldn’t be good enough.

But what would you do about it?

At 32, I no longer have the whippet-like ability of my younger self to go from flab to super fit at the drop of a hat. I also don’t have any experience designing my own fitness regimen. And I certainly don’t have tons of money to throw at a personal trainer to play drill sergeant to my lazy, wheezy self.

Even with all those excuses, though, I decided to do something about it.

I started going to the gym in my neighborhood. That gym is free for residents – always good for a girl on a budget – and I muddled my way through a week of workouts before admitting I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I nearly gave up.

Instead, I contacted a friend of mine who has a background in personal fitness and competitive bodybuilding. She is also a Soldier in the Oregon Army National Guard who I met on deployment in 2013.

“Brittany: Help!” I said to her. “I sat on my butt too much and the flab is overwhelming!”

Star that she is, Brittany pointed me in the direction of a website (bodybuilding.com) that offers free workouts and nutrition advice for all kinds of people, newbies to incredible hulks alike. I jumped on it right away. Maybe you’re wondering, “Yeah, sure. Was it really so easy?”

Well, that part was. But the next part was harder. That was the carving out time each day to exercise part, the part where I noticed what I was eating and when, the part when I tried to replace bad habits with good.

Egad that’s tough. I’ve slipped up. I’ve eaten cake. I’ve drunk a soda or two (or, ahem, three). I was sick for a week (yay, food poisoning) and my momentum stuttered. But I kept going to the gym. I kept trying.

After a few weeks of working out, I took my APFT. I did the best I’ve done in years and scored a 270 combined out of the possible 300 points. Of course there’s plenty of room for improvement, but that’s miles better than my flabby self, who sighed at her reflection, would’ve done. Even with the APFT done and gone until next year, I still go to the gym because I don’t want to see that out of shape girl in the mirror again.

Mediocrity is an awful thing, but it’s possible to be better than just okay. Let’s end the skinny fatness with a bit of perseverance, grit and sweat. Our health and our careers are worth it.


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