Essay Example about Eating Disorders in the US Military

Published: 2022-05-25
Essay Example about Eating Disorders in the US Military
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Diet Mental disorder
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1248 words
11 min read

The Identification of a Problem

Statistics from the Defense Medical Epidemiology Database suggest that eating disorders are prevalent in the US military. A recent review of diagnosis records over nine years found that the yearly percentage of soldiers with eating disorders was .30% by 2006 (Antczak and Brininger 363). Notably, this was the first research based on medical diagnosis records of the service members. More recent studies have used alternative methods such as self-reports and recorded much higher eating disorders prevalence in the US Military. Overall, the number of females diagnosed with eating disorders in the US Military over the years remains significantly higher than that of males (Antczak and Brininger 363). Moreover, the number of service members with eating disorders has been rising steadily over the years. Therefore, it is necessary to lessen the prevalence of eating disorders in the US Military.

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There are many reasons why America needs to fight eating disorders in its military. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (n.p.), eating disorders pose a danger to physical health because they have adverse effects on the nearly all organ systems. One type of eating disorders - anorexia nervosa- is known to have high mortality rates. Also, eating disorders are associated with increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as cancer and diabetes. Besides the physical consequences, eating disorders affect emotions, social relationships and productivity. All these effects are capable of hampering the effectiveness of the affected service members.

A Proposal for Action to Alleviate the Problem

The best way to mitigate eating disorder in the military is to develop a program for early detection and intervention to reduce the duration of the incidences. First, since the problem is associated with social stigma, many affected individuals tend to conceal it until too late. Therefore, the first thing that the program would focus on is minimizing the social pressures that lead to the shame. For instance, the prevalence of this condition is higher in females than in men because the American society expects women to be thin.

As such, the starting point would be to mount a campaign sensitize the entire military against over-emphasizing on body weight. The female members must be trained to focus less on individuality, personality and appearance. Also, the campaign must raise eating disorder awareness in the barracks, so that the service can accept soldiers with different body sizes, provided their weights are above the required minimum. Besides the campaign, such sensitization can be incorporated in the initial training of the military recruits to avoid future occurrences. Once the stigma is eliminated, all the servicemen who develop the problem would readily come out to seek help in time.

The awareness campaign should take the Body Project approach which uses cognitive dissonance (Shaw et al. 205). The intervention would enable the service officer to actively make arguments about the weight and body shape requirements, aligning their attitudes with the desired stance. It helps to reduce chances of developing an eating disorder as well as obesity in future. Also, it reduces the need to utilize mental health care and improves psychosocial functioning.

Secondly, the military dentists and doctors should be required to examine all their clients for eating disorders during all medical diagnoses and checkups. Some of the common signs of possible development of eating disorder are digestive complaints, severe erosion of salivary glands or teeth, and bowel problems. Such cases should be given closer analysis for possible changing attitudes towards body shape, food and weight. Also, it should be a requirement for all service members to be regularly examined for symptoms of amenorrhoea and weight loss. Furthermore, the US military should recruit and train counsellors to help all service members adjust back to normal life when they return from war. That would help to overcome posttraumatic depression and stress, which studies have found to be a major cause of eating disorder in this population. Therefore, the soldiers should have access to care, including support for officers with the problems of alcoholism and PTSD.

Thirdly, the US limitary should produce material for self-help bibliotherapy to help service members who to deal with the problem on their own (Troscianko). The material should address concerns about exercise and diet habits, attitudes towards body, self-esteem, and mood. Evidence from studies has shown that bibliotherapy is more effective when it is packaged creatively. Therefore, the authors of the self-help literature should present the information through fictional work such as films and poetry instead of manuals and guides.

Justification of the Solution

Early detection and intervention is the most practical way to lessen eating disorders in the military for two reasons. First, it is not possible to eliminate all the factors that cause the problem. Causes such as pressure from family, post-traumatic stress and drug use may not be easy to control. Although it is difficult to achieve primary prevention, it is easier to reduce the causes of eating disorder by addressing those that relate to work policy. Secondly, the US military should adopt early detection and intervention because it is more difficult to treat eating disorders once they become a person's lifestyle. Bulimic and anorexic behaviors turn into deeply rooted habits (Bear).

The rationale for beginning with an awareness campaign is to change the attitude of the entire military about body shape and size (Shaw et al. 205). Apparently, there are standard body size ranges that American soldiers are expected to maintain. As such, they undergo routine weigh-ins to check the balance between their weights and heights. Those whose weights exceed the set range are put under great pressure to purge it. The resultant involuntary effort to cut down weight may cause a permanent eating disorder. Besides the military regulations, the American society's definition of beauty and fitness is flawed because it overemphasizes thinness. It is therefore common to find soldiers, especially female ones yielding to this pressure by purging or getting on the diet to enhance their looks. Military work has a lot of negative experiences that may result in the psychological disturbance. That is the reason why it is important for the soldiers to have access to competent counselling services. Furthermore, the traumatizing experiences of military work can cause stress and depression, which may result in eating disorders. Therefore, doctors should examine the service members for the problem on a regular basis. Bibliotherapy is another suitable intervention in this case because it has been proven to be more effective than alternative approaches.

In conclusion, the problem of eating disorders is a major concern in the US Military because it affects many service members. Apart from compromising the effectiveness of the affected individuals, eating disorders are potentially fatal. Therefore, it is necessary to find ways to lessen it. The most suitable action to reduce eating disorder in the US military is early detection and intervention, which require regular examination, access to counselling and treatment services as well as the availability of creative self-help bibliotherapy.

Works Cited

Antczak, Amanda J., and Teresa L. Brininger. "Diagnosed Eating Disorders in the U.S. Military: A Nine Year Review." Eating Disorders, vol. 16, no. 5, 2008, pp. 363-377.

Bear, Merryl. "Prevention of Eating Disorders." National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC), 2003,

National Eating Disorders Association. "Health Consequences." National Eating Disorders Association, 22 Feb. 2018,

Shaw, Heather, et al. "Preventing Eating Disorders." Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, vol. 18, no. 1, 2009, pp. 199-207.

Troscianko, Emily T. "Literary reading and eating disorders: survey evidence of therapeutic help and harm." Journal of Eating Disorders, vol. 6, no. 1, 2018.

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