Sunday, August 2, 2009

Processed junk food, inactivity hits Brit forces

According to a leaked army memo, Britain's Afghanistan effort is being "hampered" by soldiers who are too fat, sick and weak to fight. The memo concludes that the army has "not consistently maintained our standards of physical fitness" and needs to "reinvigorate a warrior ethos and a culture of being fit."

The memo echoes a similar problem among German forces in Afghanistan. A parliamentary report published late last year found that German soldiers were on average fatter than the German civilian population and generally "too fat to fight."

The problem is not confined to Britain or Germany. US military drill instructors report steep, ongoing declines in the physical fitness of recruits.

Contrast this to the athletic reputation of ancient Spartans. Every Spartan man and woman, girl and boy, trained as if they were to compete in the Olympic games. Unless there was a festival or a war, Spartan men trained hard outside every day. Every one of them at what we would now call fresh organic produce, whole grains, wild game and other fresh, whole raw nuts, seeds, legumes and more. Their only oil was olive oil. Their only sugar was raw honey. They drank wine, but never got drunk.

The problem with the British, German and American militaries is that fighting men and women are taken from a population immersed in industrial food marketing, and consumer societies where much of our energies are devoted to pursuing passive leisure and fake foods.

When the British Army Major who sent the memo called for a "reinvigorate a warrior ethos and a culture of being fit," he was in fact calling on Britain to become more like Sparta. Easier said than done. You see, it "takes a village" to raise a Spartan.

We have taken so much from ancient Greece -- democracy, philosophy, medicine and a million great ideas. But we forgot to learn from the society that did military fitness better than anyone: Sparta. The Spartan Diet book will re-introduce lost wisdom about food, health, fitness and life.