Obesity is a National Security Issue: Lieutenant General Mark Hertling at TEDxMidAtlantic 2012


Translator: Emma Gon
Reviewer: Cathrine Ulstrand Hello, my name’s Hertling and I’m a soldier and — you probably could tell that. I’ve been in the military for 38 years. I’m thinking of making it a career. I have seen — (Laughter) — I have seen and studied and analysed all types of security threats. I’ve fought in several wars but there’s an emerging threat
that we’re seeing and I’d like to talk a little bit
about today that I think will have an effect
on our future, our economy, our youth and our economic system. It is an emerging threat that concerns me significantly and it’s represented in this picture. Now you might think, why is a soldier talking about a young man who is obviously inactive and perhaps is a little bit overweight? And it’s because of some things I’ve seen in the last several years and I’d like to talk a little bit about those today and related to how I believe it could be a national security threat within the next 20 to 30 years. First of all, in 1983, the Army sent me on something called a broadening experience. I was asked to go graduate school at Indiana University. I had studied as an undergraduate
in International Relations but they said, “Hey we want you to go and get a Master’s degree
in Exercise Physiology and then teach PE at West Point.” So I said, “Okay, sounds like a great idea. It’s broadening to be sure.” And I went out there — (Laugther) — I went to Indiana University and my first class was an anatomy class and I had an anatomy lab. I walked into the classroom and they issued me a cadaver. As they did everyone else in the class. And the cadaver I had,
came with a medical history The professor told us,
“In order to respect the people who have given
their bodies to science we’d ask you to respect them,
too, and you perhaps wanna name them to remind yourself that they were once a person although we don’t wanna give you
their real name.” So I named mine Charlie. Charlie had a medical history. He had been a two-pack-a-day smoker. Charlie had not exercised in the last 20 years. Charlie was extremely overweight and Charlie had died of a cardiovascular disease and he was 46 years old. When we pulled him up and we began, the various students in the room began our disection of these bodies I had a lot of a tougher time than some of the other students because I had to cut through several layers of adipose. When I got to the internal body cavities it was amazing to me comparing Charlie’s organs to some of the organs of
the other students in the class. The heart was surrounded by fat several inches. One of the tricks our instructors taught us was, you know, we had to through these labs where we had to name what vein was which and what artery was which, and the professor said, “If you pull on an artery, it’s like a rubber band. If you pull on a vein, it’s like
a guitar string and it’ll twang.” When I pulled on Charlie’s arteries and veins they broke off into my hand. So I finished grad school and went to teach at West Point for 3 years from ’83 to ’86 and then after that assignment I went back to the operational Army and did things that all soldiers do: commanded organizations, trained, went into combat several times, and then coming out of combat as a Division Commander in 2009 the Army decided they wanted to promote me to three-star General I think because they wanted to prove they have a sense of humor. They then sent me to be the Commander of Initial Military Training. My job was to train
the 160,000 or so soldiers or correction: civilians, that would come into the Army every year and turn them into soldiers. What I found when I reported to that assignment disturbed me. Several facts came to my attention. First of all, 75% or more a little bit more actually of the civilians who wanted to join the Army were not qualified to do so. 75% of the 17-24 year olds
who wanted to join the Army were not qualified and the number one reason was because they were obese. Of the 25% that could join the Army what we found on the first day of basic training was that about 60% of them could not pass the PT test that we gave on the first day. And that was:
one minute of push-ups, one minute of sit-ups and
a one-mile run. Now, that’s not a difficult test. But we were finding that a great majority of our new soldiers coming off the civilian environment, could not pass that test. I couldn’t understand what had happened. This was not what I had left studying physical education in 1986. As we did some analyses I realized that a couple of things had changed. First of all, number one
and the primary reason was starting in the late ’90s the majority of our elementary
and high schools stopped teaching PE, and in fact, only five states of the 50 of our country right now have mandatory requirements
for physical education between K and 12th grade today. Five out of 50. Now, you say,
“Okay, well that’s interesting, but what does the Army care about that?” Well, we’re getting the product of that but in addition to second and third order effects were young people that were joining our service could not run, dodge, jump, tumble, roll the kinds of things you expect soldiers to do if they’re in combat. The second thing we found or that I found or realized was that our diet had changed radically in the last 15 years. We were supersizing everything. Having been stationed overseas in Germany, that’s not the case there, but they were supersizing — if you want a large fries you can get extra large
and extra-extra large. You couldn’t just get a 16 oz drink, you could get a 24, 42, 64 oz soda. And that was having a deleterious effect. It was fascinating to me that we were also seeing, a scientist told me, that in the last 15 years from the time I left West Point until today Americans eat about 30% more calories a day than they had in 1983 and about 15 lbs more of sugar a year. Phenomenal statistics. But the combination
of a lack of physical education and an increase of poor nutrition was causing secondary effects. This is the “O” food group, by the way. I started calling it the “O” food group because anything that ends in an “O” is probably not good for you. (Laugther) I haven’t found anything
that ended in “O” yet that was actually very nutritious in nature. But what we started to do was we saw some second and third order effects and this is one of them this is at one of our training bases and we have five in the United States Army. We were seeing a malady called femoral neck stress injuries, and what that means is that the tip of the pelvis would crack and it wouldn’t be a clean break but it would be a stress fracture that would cause significant problems and you can see starting in 2000
that we were beginning to see this and this is because the people
we were recruiting were just coming of age and many of them had not had PE and they had started to have the bad nutrition. But by 2009 when our new recruits were 18 or 19 years old they had gone through their entire life without having a PE class
and dependent on bad nutrition. Those 135 that we had at one training base are significant injuries because in order to fix it it costs anywhere between
USD 100,000 and USD 300,000. So this is an economic issue. This isn’t just a soldier health issue. For me this was an economic issue. The third reason, and I’ll say this then move quickly on. The third reason we saw was an increase in technology. Now, I’m a big fan of technology, but the researchers had told me that we now watch as a nation about 150 hours of television a month. That’s five hours a day. In 2009, when we started this study we were seeing anywhere
from 30 to 40 on average hours of internet searches by adult male Americans per month. That’s between one and two hours a day. Gaming was off the charts. In 2009, and it’s increased since then the average teenager was playing thirteen hours of video games per week. Now all those hours in front of a tube were replacing the play time and that’s significant. In addition to that, the final one, number four: We’re terrible examples to our children. We’re in too much of a rush. We’re eating poorly we’re eating fast foods we’re relaxing in front of the television
at the end of the day. We also are relying on technology instead of play and we’re not balancing our lives. My wife has a stitchery in our house as we’ve raised two children and now a couple of grandchildren that says, “Your children are watching you.” What you do speaks louder
than anything you can say. We were not doing the right things
for our children. So in typical army fashion I said, “We’ve got to address
these issues with our new recruits.” And we changed several things. We began something we called the Soldier Athlete Initiative because you can’t just say
to a bunch of 18 year olds, “We’re going to get you all in shape and stop feeding you cheeseburgers.” You have to give kind of a sexy title to it so we called it Soldier Athlete Initiative. If you’re going to perform on the battle field, you have got to train like a champion. And what we did was,
we completely changed well, it’s a three-legged stool we completely changed the way
we were training to compensate for things
that were not going on in grade school and high school. We assigned physical terapists and athletic trainers
to every organization because we wanted
to prevent the injuries and treat them before they turned into those USD 100,000 bone stress fractures. We wanted to fix them
as they became visible. And then the third thing
and probably the most important was we changed the way
we feed food in the mess halls the dining facilities. We called it “Fueling the Soldier.” You can’t just say,
“Hey, have a salad.” We instead say — (Laugther) — you’ve got to advertise with soldiers so we said,
“Hey, we’re going to fuel you for maximum performance.” This is what sports teams are doing. This is what NFL, major league baseball they know they’ve got to eat right in order to perform at their maximum. Okay, I’m not going to dwell… Within the first year, we saw some unbelievably strong statistics that shows this was working: reduction in injuries, we saved about USD 30 million the first year just in treatment of injuries. 30 million in the army. Just on injury prevention And we began to see weight loss and improved… or we reduced
the number of overweight soldiers we have in the Army. We still have a way to go. We’ve advanced this “Fueling the Soldier” to “Fueling the Teams” and in fact we’ve redirected to the Department of Defense Schools for our young people
and we’re calling it “Fueling the future.” So we fixed it!
Or we’re on our way to fix it. What’s interesting about this is your Army combined with your Navy,
your Marine Corps you Air Force and your Coast Guard makes up less than 1%
of the American population. So my concern is: What’s going on with the other 99%? And this gets me back to my issue of this being a national security concern. I’m going to show you one area and that’s just levels of obesity. This was a chart that represents the number of states in the Union that were below 20% obesity rates on average from a child of 14 to 19 years old. This was in 1985. Watch what happens. As you can see in 2009, it’s significantly worse. The predictions for 2030 are these: You can see the number of states that have greater than 65% children obese. This is not overweight, this is obese. Now, the related issues that I told you the issue with our injury rates and how much we were paying to fix people is significant. We spend estimated the Department of Health and Education both determined that we spend on average today between
USD 150 to USD 200 billion per year treating the results of childhood obesity. We’re seeing an increase in diabetes. We estimate that we will have a 40% cardiovascular disease rate
by the year 2030. This is significant. This is a health care issue. An economic issue. A readiness issue for me because I’ve seen my pool of recruits deplete based on this. I can’t pull them in in order to fix them. And it’s just a competition issue. There’s other studies
that show what obesity and lack of activity do to young people. So I believe this is certainly a national security concern. There are several organizations
who are attempting to approach this. You may have heard of
Mayor Bloomberg in New York who has banned all sugary drinks above 16 oz in schools and public restaurants
in New York City and he took a lot of heat for that. Nike, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Subway are all using overweight actors in their adds to pattern behavior and perhaps to turn this thing around. Nickelodeon in last year’s
Worldwide Day of Play decided to put their screens black as opposed to showing programming in order to get children outside and play. And of course our First Lady over the last several years has been attempting to do “Let’s Move!” and the counter obesity measures. This concerns me. This concerns me greatly. Again as I said my name is Hertling,
I am a soldier. I’ve been a soldier for 38 years. This is not something the Army can fix. This is not something you can put
a yellow ribbon on and say, “Let somebody else take care of it”. This is not something that we can rely on governments or organizations to do. Be fearless in terms of writing your schools. Be fearless in trying to get nutrition back in restaurants. Be fearless in balancing your lives and getting out to exercise. Be fearless in modelling your behavior for young people. That will prevent a whole lot of Charlies in the future. Thank you very much. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Obesity is a National Security Issue: Lieutenant General Mark Hertling at TEDxMidAtlantic 2012

  1. “I haven’t found anything in nature yet that ends with O an is healthy” tomato? Potato? 😂

  2. We should raise taxes on families with obese children. A loss of custody should follow, after several months, if no action is taken.

  3. well thank god, this a great news! maybe we can stop people joining the army because all we doing is causing distractions all over the world. Lets learn from Costa rica and stop playing war games you little boys and grow up

  4. i'm glad I watched this. I have a 2 year old and absolutely do have to change my behavior to match what I want him to see and learn from. Fortunately i'm not overweight (wife is severely) so wont take much effort. I dont want him to be a statistic.

  5. How about turning your attention to the government and Supreme Court, and talk to them about why children in schools eat fries/burgers/pizza for lunch? Or that the Supreme Court allows companies to pay politicians to do their bidding. . . like Monsanto. . .

    Or how about not doing that tax cur for the rich and finance the schools with good food?

    You're misplacing your concern. You should consider that the government and political system today, in fact, is a national security risk.

  6. PC culture is a national security threat aswell! Cant send someone scared of not getting likes on their Instagram to go fight for their life. Lol.

  7. whats gonna happen is, all of the people who can't handle so much food will slowly die out, then some worldwide shortage on food will starve the remaining population that can now not find enough food to eat.

  8. He's right I'm an American living in Europe. And notice a huge difference in obesity between the 2 continents.

  9. If everyone lost 10-20 pounds, cut back on drinking and smoking, portion control.. ect.. … we’d probably save ALOT of money in healthcare.

  10. I'm far from being an athlete. I started training late in my life (in High School I was always among the lasts chosen in a class to form teams), but at 48, I sadly have to say that I'm in a better physical shape than many guys half my age.

  11. Make military mandatory for everyone. At least 2-4 years of service so we have people that can learn teamwork, respect, and discipline for once… And of course make everyone fit!

  12. In my country the youth who come from poor communities can do jumping with ropes while those from richer households can't.

  13. roots all to the death of dinner table family values – cuts and cuts to education – cuts to PE programs – unhealthy school lunches of processed cheap food – overworked families to make ends meet . Our government is robbing us, and hiring people like you (soldiers), to rob the rest of the world. . Join the progressive movement.

  14. Obesity is a National Security Issue: Lieutenant General Mark Hertling at TEDxMidAtlantic 2012
    Second only to low IQ races on Welfare.

  15. This guy has a GREAT physique. He makes me sit up straighter! And makes me want to exercise starting NOW-but dove candy 🙁

  16. 1 in 8 Americans are metabolically healthy! We spend 3.2 billion on health care! 75% of that number is from Metabolic syndrome!

  17. Cant find anything ending in O…..how about POTATO one of the major foods that the world eats? Maybe America needs more than just PE in its Schools eh

  18. Build more parks and Open Spaces in the urban core. That way the urban kids have a place to workout. as it is now, there's no place for them to play, but the sidewalk.

  19. Who will be laughing when there is a food scarcity and I have 2 years worth of calories stored in my body already!!!?

  20. When the British attempted to pull in new recruits to fight the Boer Wars from 1899 to 1902, the army began to struggle finding suitable soldiers, and started to notice a great deal of citizens were far too unhealthy to be recruited into the ranks. This was a result of the extremely unhealthy living and factory conditions for working class people in Britain at the time. This caught the attention of the government, who were concerned about potential war with Germany. Germany at the time had comparatively outstanding workers rights and welfare programs, which did not impose the same harmful conditions on the working class. This Created a fear amongst British politicians that, should war break out, Britain could not reliably pull the same manpower that Germany could, making the health and well being of the citizens a clear matter of national security for the Empire. This urged members of parliament to pass new laws to better the conditions of workers, and to create new affordable healthcare to maintain a healthy population.

    Now, for the second time in history, the health of the people is on a serious decline. Western countries in particular, struggle to compete with healthier populations. If another war does break out, god forbid another great war, our nations will find it harder to defend ourselves and the values we fight so dearly to protect. It will only get harder and harder as the years go by, unless something is done

  21. I always tell people that walking isn’t an exercise. You don’t need 6 pack abs but you need to be reasonably prepared for times of need. Everyone just telling me my criteria are a bit too harsh.

  22. The PE thing shocked me. No mandatory sports at school? I live in Poland, and here you have to have 2 hours of PE a week basically from age 6 to 18, unless you have a doctors note of course. It's a part of school so you get grades for, which is why there's nearly no way around it. I know Germany has mandatory sports as well. While I complain about it a lot, maily due to the not entirely fair grading and no too great curriculum, it's undoubtedly a good thing we are forced to exercise in some way.

  23. I lost 12 kg / 26 lbs within 4 months. I just went from being obese to being overweight this month. I don't remember when I was this "slim". High school, maybe? I still have 6 kg / 12 lbs left to go to have a healthy body-type.

  24. what's really so damn ironic is: if the government were to allocate even 1/4th of the government spending that the "defense" budget gets handed to them, to programs that make eating healthier far more affordable…this wouldn't even be an issue.

  25. I think having provided the taliban with training and weapons inthe 80's is more of a security issue for your country, MR General 😉

  26. I can't believe you guys got no pe at school anymore. In Germany we must take pe classes till the end in order to graduate.

  27. You Need A Civilian Military Training/Schooling System That Doesn't Require Currency Ohh Wait You Are Already There …..

  28. You want more young men available for the military, general?
    1. Abolish public school, give parents their kids' equal share of total district funds to use at the private school of their choice, with private schools allowed to wholly discriminate in whatever way they want in accepting applications.
    2. Abolish giving kids 60 vaccine doses by age 60 months.
    3. Abolish the modern dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties of wheat which have toxic proteins that cause obesity and other health problems.
    4. Abolish aspartame. Abolish Roundup. Abolish excitotoxins. Abolish pthalates and FRCs in consumer products. Especially abolish beef and pork growth hormones, because these cause premature puberty.
    5. Abolish cell towers and in-orbit cell towers.

  29. Let's stop with the excuses cuh
    We need better food in our school systems
    More physical education
    Better nutrition at home
    Daily walks or something to get the people off their asses
    And we need cheaper clean whole foods at grocery stores

    I want to see how many delusional obese people are going to try and play victim here and defend their habits and state of health against this video and my comment

  30. 4:28 The number one reason that unqualified recruits didnt pass is because they were obese?! Why do so many obese people sign up for the army? Surely you look at yourself in the mirror and go "don't bother". What am I missing here? Are people delusional en masse? Are obese people trying to get administrative jobs in the army which may also have an unexpected fitness requirement? Surely you read the general job requirements before applying though. Being unfit or overweight is one thing, but obesity is an extreme, something that would definitely make someone second guess their decision of joining the army. It's beyond me if what he's saying is true. Does anyone have a rational answer for this? Surely there's a sensible reason.

  31. People anymore are just weak and pathetic, and now all of that is rubbing off on the new generation and society is devolving into what might as well be a planet of sloths.

  32. In an effort to passify the populace from the dissenters of the 60's and 70's, the military government he serves has created this scenario through public educational shifts. Kids are growing up on pizza and chicken nuggets in school lunch programs, opcional physed and weak coursework with computers doing the thinking for teacher and student. The result : soft minds and soft bodies= passive population.

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