Military sheds extra pounds

2010-07-23 07:14

Belgium is launching a war on chubby soldiers with a diet plan to literally slim down an army in which a majority of troops are overweight.

At the same time, the Belgian Defence Ministry plans to cut down its manpower to 34 000 troops by allowing 1 150 soldiers to go on early retirement by next year, Belga press agency reported.

Those who stay will have to work on their waistlines.

An army spokesperson, cited by the Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, said that 60% of soldiers were overweight, and of those 15% were obese.

“Just like a firefighter, a soldier must be in shape,” the spokesperson, Ingrid Baeck, told Nieuwsblad, noting that the average age of Belgian soldiers is 40.

She said: “The defence chief (General Charles-Henri Delcour) has again stressed the problem 10 days ago. We want to get rid of the image of the ‘fat soldier’.”

The military will launch the diet programme in the autumn – September, October and November.
The Belgian military has also been on a financial diet.

The defence budget has been falling every year since 2008 and hovers around 1% of the gross domestic product, lower than the 2% threshold demanded by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) to its member states.

The Belgian army is not the only Nato member with chubby soldiers within its ranks. About 4.4% of US soldiers, or about 69 000 men and women, were considered obese in 2008, according to Pentagon figures.

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