Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Too fat to fight

Too fat to fight
America’s soft underbelly, and what can be done about it

I listen to 93X on my way in to work in the morning – brotherhood 2000 + 15
Last week the half assed morning show was talking about a report released by Mission: Readiness, a group of retired generals titled “Too Fat, Frail, and Out-of-Breath to Fight.”

Here is an article about that report from the Star and Tribune

Minnesota kids are too fat to fight.

That’s the message from a group of retired generals who say the state’s kids are too fat, eat too poorly and don’t get enough exercise to qualify to join the military.

As part of a nationwide effort, generals recommend more physical education classes and better meals in schools and more walking and biking trails in the state’s communities to get kids in fighting trim.

The report, released Thursday, doesn’t pull any punches, even in the title: “Too Fat, Frail, and Out-of-Breath to Fight.”

Among its findings: 69 percent of Minnesota’s young adults cannot serve in the military; one in 10 in the state suffer from asthma, disqualifying them from service; in an average week, 40 percent of Minnesota ninth-graders receive no physical education and less than a quarter of Minnesota high school students get the recommended hour of physical activity during their day.

“Long-term military readiness is at risk unless a large-scale change in physical activity and nutrition takes place in America,” the report warns.

Even as the U.S. draws down its military forces after more than a decade of escalation for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the armed forces continue to need a prepared fighting force, the generals said.

“Regardless of the number, whoever serves is going to have to be fit enough to be able to conduct the missions,” said retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Tim Kennedy.

Guard and reserve units also will be required to remain ready for domestic missions such as flooding and other natural disasters, said retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Jerald Engelman.

“It is very important for the citizen soldier to be kept physically fit,” he said.

They were joined by retired Air Force Brig. Gens. Harry Sieben and Dennis Schulstad.

The report was released nationally by Mission: Readiness, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of more than 500 retired generals, admirals and other senior enlisted military leaders.

It does note that many Minnesota schools and communities already are trying to make improvements in the lifestyles of students and young adults.

Within the past decade, a program called Safe Routes to School has helped 180 schools increase the number of children commuting to and from school by improving sidewalks, bicycle paths, intersections, and traffic signals.

In addition, school lunches have been targeted for improvement. As a result of updated standards for school meals that went into effect in 2012, 94 percent of schools in Minnesota are now serving meals that have more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, the report said.

The same day I heard the report on the radio I took a recovered property call at the elementary school.

It was a nice day and the children were having gym outside.  Class had just started as I arrived to pick up the property.  As a warm up for class the children were to run 100 yards down to the ball diamond, around the backstop and back, somewhere around 225 yards all in all.

Not a sprint, not a race just jog 225 yards

I would estimate 20-30 quit in the first 70 yards.  Another 20-30% made it around the back stop then quit.  I figure less than 20% made any effort to run the entire way.

In a previous blogs I have written about other high school gym classes I have seen that left me shaking my head.

Why do I care?  Besides the security of the nation, this affects me in two very real ways.
These same soft kids are the recruitment pool for law enforcement.  My life will depend on them, and it is my job to train them.

I’ve said it before, I can help a lion become a better hunter, I can’t glue fangs onto a lamb.

Why should you care?
Totality of the circumstances
In regards to use of force decisions totality of the circumstances refers to all the details that might influence what makes a safe and effective minimum level of force.
They are usually divided into Influential Circumstances and Officer /Threat Factors.  

—The factors and circumstances, with the exception of gender, work both ways.  
You will need more force against a big, strong threat. 

Conversely, if you are bigger and stronger you will likely need less force. 

Influential Circumstances
  • Inability to disengage
  • Proximity to weapon
  • Injury or exhaustion
  • Hazardous environment
  • Special knowledge
  • Surprise
  • Ground level
Officer / Threat Factors
  • Skill
  • Size
  • Strength
  • Numbers
  • Mental state
  • Gender
  • Sometimes age
  • Disability

I don't want any Officer to use unnecessarily high levels of force because they are too weak and out of shape to control a subject at a lower level of force that a competently fit Officer could reasonably use.

I don't want citizens getting shot because the Officer was to gassed to go hands on.

I'm not saying exhausted Officers aren't justified in using higher levels of force.
I am saying Law Enforcement organizations are not justified in putting unfit Officers in a position where their physical fitness may have life and death consequences.

Both for the Officer and the public.

We need fit troops, we need fit cops.  Where are we going to get them from?

We have to make changes to the recruitment pool.

Why are kids fatter today?

  • Less activity
  • Everyone is special – participation award
  • Lowered standards.

Less activity
Look at what kids ate in the 60’s-80’s.  For the most part garbage.  But childhood obesity has only become a problem fairly recently.  Why?  Lack of activity. 

Are kids today inherently lazier than we were back in the day?  I’d argue no, they just want to have fun.  Same as we did at the same age.  It is just that it is a lot easier to have fun without moving today.

What do I mean?

I will use my childhood as an example.  I was born in 1974.  I am the youngest of 5 kids by a lot.  12 years between me and my closest sibling, 17 years between me and my oldest sibling.  The change in technology between my oldest brother and me wasn’t that great, so I would argue our childhoods were pretty similar.

How did we have fun?

We had maybe like 14 TV stations.  Most of which broadcast crap.  Being home alone was boring.  So you rode your bike (with out a helmet) over to a buddy’s house. 

Then you and your buddy got bored so you called up some other guys.  You all met up and played baseball, or football, or Army guys (in my day it was called G.I.Joe). 

You played until the street lights came on then you went home.  After dinner you would play with your toys, or if you were lucky you could ride your bike to the gas station and rent a video tape.

The change in the technology readily available between the birth of my oldest kid in 2003 and my youngest kid in 2011 was exponentially more rampant than in the 17 years between my oldest brother and me.

How do you have fun today?

There are over 500 channels to choose from.  If you can’t find anything you can go on Netflix and chose from nearly any movie ever.  Without ever leaving your house.  You can text your buddies, no need to go to their house.  If you want to play sports, you don’t play a pickup game.  You join a highly regulated organization.  You can’t play G.I.Joe anymore.  Young men romping around in wooded areas with toy guns would be called in to the Police (I know because I have taken several of these calls).  You might even end up in counseling or get medicated to control those violent tendencies (that every generation before called playing).  So instead of playing in the woods with your friends pretending to shoot bad guys.  You sit in front a screen pretending to shoot bad guys, only no imagination is needed as the state of the art graphics display the carnage in life like detail.

"Screen time" is a term used for activities done in front of a screen, such as watching TV, working on a computer, or playing video games. Screen time is sedentary activity, meaning you are being physically inactive while sitting down. Very little energy is used during screen time.

On top of that many kids consume additional calories while they are in front of a screen.

Most American children spend about 3 hours a day watching TV. Added together, all types of screen time can total 5 to 7 hours a day.

We were no better, there just wasn’t 7 hours of stuff worth watching back then.

Kids from previous generations were equally lazy as kids today.  They just had to work harder to have fun.  That harder work resulted in more activity.

Everyone is special

There was a time when people kept score.  You worked hard to win, because winning is awesome.  If you lost you learned not to cry about it.  You win some you lose some.  You find out what you need to work on and improve it.  Valuable life lessons.  Your self-esteem was not destroyed if your little league team didn’t win a trophy.  If you did win a trophy it was cool because it actually meant something.

Today everyone is artificially special.  Valuable life lessons are not being learned in childhood.  So much so that for some the first objective skill evaluation doesn’t come until after college in their first professional job interview.  As adults they are crushed and can’t understand why this cold heartless employer doesn’t think they are as special as their mom tells him he is every morning when she makes breakfast for her 26 year old son living in her basement.

My daughters dance.  There is no Gold, Silver, Bronze (heaven forbid no medal).  The lowest you can score Gold.  THE LOWEST YOU CAN SCORE IS GOLD!  The middle is High Gold, and the highest is Platinum.

In an effort to protect everyone’s self-esteem, the need to make improvement is never acknowledged.  
In extreme cases even the suggestion that improvement is needed is bullying.

In regard to physical activity this is called fat shaming.  I had to look it up.
These were the first four results in my search

Urban Dictionary: Fat shaming

Macmillan English Dictionaries
14 Painful Examples Of Everyday Fat-Shaming

What's Wrong With Fat-Shaming? - xoJane

From what I understand anything someone from a position of "thin privilege" says or does that the unprivileged recipient perceives as negative is fat shamming

So, the first few pictures of this blog might be considered fat shamming.  If I have hurt any one's feelings I sincerely apologize. (Not sarcasm)

Bottom line, don’t be an asshole.  Don’t degrade people because they are different than you. 
Also suck it up butter cup not everything that you perceive as fat shaming has malice intent.

I was a fat cop.  I am a better cop now that I am fitter.  I don't know what thin privilege is.  I have to work hard and work smart every day.  But I am not special.  If I can do it, anyone can.  If something makes you feel bad about your physical appearance, don't cry about it do something about it.

Kids today aren’t as active as they used to be.  When they are, everyone is special
When everyone is special no one is special.

How can everybody be special if there is a minimum standard to make a team?  Easy, lower the standard enough that anyone can make the team.

Lowered standards

The FDNY for the first time in its history will allow someone who failed its crucial physical fitness test to join the Bravest, The Post has learned.
Rebecca Wax, 33, is set to graduate Tuesday from the Fire Academy without passing the Functional Skills Training test, a grueling obstacle course of job-related tasks performed in full gear with a limited air supply, an insider has revealed.
“They’re going to allow the first person to graduate without passing because this administration has lowered the standard,” said the insider, who is familiar with the training.
Upon graduation, Wax would be assigned to a firehouse and tasked with the full duties of a firefighter.
Some FDNY members are angry.
“We’re being asked to go into a fire with someone who isn’t 100 percent qualified,” the source said. “Our job is a team effort. If there’s a weak link in the chain, either civilians or our members can die.”

The military has been pressured to lower standards as well

Back in 2014, one of the women who failed the course, Second Lt. Sage Santangelo, provided her theories as to why so many women fail.  She attributed it to "inferior training that women marines receive compared to men, rather than an inherent weakness in women."  Additionally, she said that women face a "double standard during their entire time in the Marine Corps."

She wrote this piece in the Washington Post, and said

... "we shouldn’t reduce qualifications. For Marine infantry officers, mistakes mean risking the lives of the troops you are charged to protect. But I believe that I could pass, and that other women could pass, if the standards for men and women were equal from the beginning of their time with the Marines, if endurance and strength training started earlier than the current practice for people interested in going into the infantry, and if women were allowed a second try, as men are."

You cannot dispute that.  Elaine Donnelly from the Washington Times wrote about this difference back in 2014:

Upper-body strength and endurance are not the only issues of concern, but both are essential for survival and mission accomplishment. In the most physically demanding environments imaginable, it matters that in timed proxy tests simulating ordnance-stowing with 95-pound artillery rounds, less than 1 percent of the men failed, compared with 28 percent of the women.In another test with progressively heavier weights lifted over the head, 80 percent of men could lift 115 pounds, but less than 9 percent of the women could do the same.

In 2013, the Marines tried to make three pull-ups mandatory for female basic trainees, but had to suspend the requirement when 55 percent could not meet it. Recent tests have found that on average, men could do almost 16 pull-ups — more than four times as many as the women.

Is there no standard anymore?
What it takes, who I am, where I've been, belong
You can't be something you're not
Be yourself, by yourself, stay away from me
A lesson learned in life, known from the dawn of time

- Pantera

Soft bigotry of lowered expectations
  - George W. Bush

What can be done?

Bitching without possible solutions is well, for bitches.
So, what can be done?

How to positively encourage change in a society where encouraging physical activity is “Fat Shamming”

Standards by their very definition are discriminatory.
How do you make changes where standards are seen as racism or sexism and therefor lowered or disregarded entirely? 

The Generals recommend:
-          More physical education classes
-          Better meals in schools
-          More walking and biking trails

I don’t disagree with the General’s suggestions however, I feel they are a band-aid on a femoral bleed.

More physical education classes
I agree, and would add higher quality phy ed classes as well

40 percent of Minnesota ninth-graders receive no physical education and less than a quarter of Minnesota high school students get the recommended hour of physical activity during their day.

Physical Education in schools in 1960's - #JFKChallenge

I have witnessed phy ed classes run by teachers who clearly no longer gave a shit.  Allowing kids to do what ever they want.  Not holding anyone accountable for their actions or lack there of.

I have also seen total waste of time phy ed classes.  Where the activity of the day was speed stacking red solo cups.

How many calories are burned stacking cups?  What life skills are taught?

If we are going to have more phy ed classes.  The classes have to be worth while.  They have to provide exercise.  They have to provide usable life skills.

Social dance kind of sucked.  Not looking like an asshole dancing at your wedding is kind of cool.

Likewise, if we are going to have phy ed classes more often, and there are only so many curriculum hours in a school year, and there are things like national no child left behind mandates dictating what schools teach, then there has to be more educational value added into the phy ed classes.

The physics of physical activity can address math / science requirements
Nutrition and physiology can address biology requirements
Doing different activities from different countries / cultures can address cultural diversity requirements.

This is a two way street as well.  There is no reason academic classes can't use more physical activity as a teaching method, especially for kinetic (hands on )learners

Phy ed home work
Screen time is here to stay.  Might as well use screen time to our advantage.  Require kids to find an activity that they enjoy (encourage life long habits).  Require them to track that activity with an app, say something like myfitnesspal.  Like a video game achievements are unlocked (recognized) higher grades are rewarded for more active time logged.

That can also address a technology requirement.

If I could get the guys I work with to spend 1/4 of the time they play "clash of clans" actually working out we would be the most kick ass crime fighting force this side of The Justice League!

Better meals in school

I agree with this.  Clearly good, healthy, wholesome food available to kids is important. 

However, I don’t want elementary kids counting calories. 

I have to be particularly careful with this at home.  I have three daughters, and no wish to inadvertently start body conscience issues with them.  Conversations with my girls about food sometimes start with…Dad can’t have that.  I remind them that I am a grown ass man and I can eat whatever I want. 

I choose not to eat something that they might enjoy because it negatively effects my training goals.  Or they will ask can I  / should I eat (whatever).  I tell them that they are young active girls and that they can eat what they like. 

Clearly I don’t want them to have a pint of ice cream breakfast, but I don’t want them worrying about their macro nutrient intake either.

I also don’t want the government dictating what I feed my children.
How much money have athletic programs (physical activity for youth) lost because concessions sales of candy and popcorn are no longer allowed?

Let kids be kids, from a purely empirical standpoint I have seen kids not allowed candy, go apeshit for candy anywhere outside of that very strict parental control.

For this age demographic more activity seems a more sensible answer.
As important as healthy food options are, I feel kids will benefit far more from fun physical activity.

More walking and biking trails.

This just seems like a money grab to me.
If a kid can’t (lives too far away) / won’t (unwilling to) walk to school on the side walk or road, what is going to magically change if there is a government funded paved walkway?

Rocky 2015 - Sorry Mick can’t run, no tax payer provided trail in my neighborhood

OK, I bagged on the Generals suggestions

What do I suggest?

Start them early

... "we shouldn’t reduce qualifications. For Marine infantry officers, mistakes mean risking the lives of the troops you are charged to protect. But I believe that I could pass, and that other women could pass, if the standards for men and women were equal from the beginning of their time with the Marines,

PT - Physical Fitness Test can't be crammed for.  It is a reflection of attributes and life style.  Best way to get kids to pass PT tests is to develop positive habits early.  Far before the attributes those habits create will be tested.

Correlation to martial arts training.  The day after the threat is not the day to start preparing for it.
The Karate Kid is bullshit

Start their preparation early, and they will be successful when life tests them

Use the President's Physical Fitness test in schools early.  Let children know that as citizens they are expected to meet these standards.  They have to contribute so society.

Remember Professor Kano was a physical educator -

"Judo is the way to the most effective use of both physical and spiritual strength. By training you in attacks and defenses it refines your body and your soul and helps you make the spiritual essence of Judo a part of your very being. In this way you are able to perfect yourself and contribute something of value to the world. This is the final goal of Judo discipline."
 -  Jigoro Kano

Which leads me to....

Set and maintain high standards

The point of the above linked article is that people will gravitate to whatever standard you set for them.

If you set the bar low, it doesn't help the people that need the most improvement, it only brings down your high achievers.  If you set the goal high it brings up the people that need the most improvement.

Achieving worthwhile goals builds esteem.  Having your esteem artificially protected by lowering the standard achieves nothing and only delays important life lessons.

I like free market solutions.  You don't see a lot of out of shape / unskilled professional athletes do you?

When money is on the line standards seem to matter.  No one is allowed in the NFL to avoid a law suit.  You can make the cut or you can't

If standards are strict to protect profits, why shouldn't standards be strict to protect lives.

Earn your seat at the table.  If you want to be part of an elite team put in the work necessary to make that team and earn the respect of it's members.

7 pull ups are required by every little girl at my daughter’s gymnastics school.  If little girls can do it for fun Women, volunteering for combat better get the job done.

Holding everyone to a standard is the opposite of racism / sexism.  It is saying not only are you capable of great things, I expect great things from you.

Positive reinforcement
The standard tests behaviors and  accomplishment not appearance

Is this fat shamming?  Those guys make more money than I will ever see because they are physically capable of doing things I can never do.

They are judged by performance, not appearance.

Lead by example

It is easy to watch a UFC fight, see a guy gas and say, wow he is out of shape... as you jam another chicken wing into your yap and wash it down with another pint of beer

It is also easy to say kids today are fat from the comfort of your couch.

Want your kids to make healthy decisions?, show them how you do it.

Make physical activity a fun natural /normal part of every day life.  Never use it as a punishment.

Small things everyday starting early ingrain lifelong habits.

Positive lifelong habits will produce young adults that can better contribute to society.

Train hard, train smart, be safe