Doctors Speak Out Over US Military Using Liposuction to 'Make the Tape'

American soldiers trying to meet the fitness standards of the U.S. Department of Defense’s “tape test” are using liposuction as a solution, according to a recent Associated Press report. So, we reached out to some of our doctors who service markets with military personnel to ask how common the practice was.

“I do see and treat quite a few military personnel. El Paso is home to one of the largest military institutions in the country (Ft. Bliss),” Dr. Mark Jabor said about his El Paso, Texas plastic surgery practice. “Many active duty soldiers will come into the office to ‘make the tape’. This is basically a set of tape measurements done on different parts of the the body to determine body fat percentage. If a soldier does not meet the tape measurements than they risk administrative sanctions which can include reprimands, denial of promotions, administrative demotion in rank, and even administrative discharge.

“I have treated many of these patients with liposuction and to my knowledge all have been able to 'make the tape' afterwards. Most look at it as an investment. They spend about $5,000 to $6,000 up front to possibly make many thousands more over the years, not to mention the overall improvement in their appearance and self esteem.”

According to, the results of the Defense Department’s “tape test” are an essential part of the service member’s overall fitness profile. Those who exceed the fat limit are less likely to pass subsequent physical endurance tests designed to emulate the strains of combat.

Many of the doctors we spoke with said these patients aren't necessarily in bad shape. They just can’t lose the last few pounds necessary to past the test.

“I have had several patients come in for and get liposuction in order to make Defense Department body fat test,” Dr. Jeffrey E. Schreiber said about his Baltimore, MD plastic surgery practice. “Basically, the patients are in great shape.  However, they could not get their waistline down to a certain measurement despite excellent diets and exercise routines. The liposuction worked and they were able to pass the test.”

US Navy tape-test fitness pushup picture - LocateADoc.comSome critics have been reported saying the standards need to be updated for the modern muscular builds. In fact, the Air Force has modified it’s fitness program by allowing airmen who fail the tape test but score high in the physical fitness exams to avoid the shame-nicknamed “pork chop platoon” or as the Marine’s call it, the “doughnut brigade” where they spend months on a special diet and exercise program.

Dr. Edward Dickerson said in his Fayetteville, NC area which includes Fort Bragg and Pope Army Airfield, he hasn't had military personnel come in for liposuction, but has had them for his weight loss program where he says they can lose up to 1-2 pounds a day to meet the "tape-test" standard with physician supervised weight loss. He also added how serious this was for these military personnel, many of who are from post-combat deployment and struggling with feelings of apathy and not being able to get back into the physical fitness role.

"One of the driving forces is essentially to be retained in the military and more importantly not to have to forfeit the possibility of a portion of their retirement due to their career being cut short," Dr. Dickerson said. "You can see there is a substantial amount of motivation to make sure the height & weight standards are met as well as what we call the taping standard for those individuals who may just have a little bit more muscle bulk than the average."

USMC Fitness - Tape Test - LocateADocWhile physician supervised weight loss is an option, all the doctors we spoke with recognized the benefit of liposuction as a solution for these military personnel.

“Liposuction is a great way to get rid of unwanted fat from targeted areas of the body,” Dr. Larry Schlesinger, a plastic surgeon in Honolulu, HI, said. “The most common areas include the abdomen, love handles, back, and both the inner and outer thighs."

Honolulu, where Dr. Schlesinger practices, is the headquarters of the United States Pacific Command comprising the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force service components.

“In our practice, we routinely perform liposuction for US military personnel for aesthetic reasons, though liposuction is additionally a great way to help our patients meet their military requirements," Dr. Schlesinger added. "Because it is very difficult to lose weight when over 35 years old, liposuction is a great alternative to getting rid of fat that would be nearly impossible to lose through diet and exercise.”

Get an overview and learn about recovery time, surgical techniques, cost and other frequently asked questions about the procedure in our Liposuction Surgery Guides.

Feature Army situp photo by DVIDSHUB [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Further Reading

  • Women already head to plastic and cosmetic surgery centers in California for innovative procedures, and body lifts, breast implants and liposuction have become a popular choice for those who want to improve their bodies after pregnancy.

  • From liposuction surgery to ultrasound and infrared fat-zapping treatments, Americans are always looking for new ways to blast away a few extra pounds and achieve their ideal figure.

  • Heidi Montag is no stranger to plastic surgery, having undergone 10 plastic surgery procedures in a single day back in 2010. The star has had breast augmentation, liposuction, multiple nose jobs, and several other procedures to become what US Magazine describes as, “an over-the-top version of her”. Montag reportedly won’t be going under the knife again and recently told Celebuzz that, “It was a lot more than I could have expected. I really hate talking about it now because it was so long ago.”