Former sailor wins disability award, blaming obesity on 'fatty' Navy diet

Naval officers are seen at CFB Esquimalt for HMCS Protecteur's paying-off ceremony in B.C. (CP)
Naval officers are seen at CFB Esquimalt for HMCS Protecteur's paying-off ceremony in B.C. (CP)

A 47-year-old Aboriginal Canadian sailor (his name is protected under privacy policies) is entitled to an estimated $3,440 disability award in the eyes of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board after he successfully argued that his weight ballooned from 162 lbs. to about 301 lbs. thanks in large part to his 19 years of service in the Canadian Navy.

The man served from 1986 until 2005 and claimed that injuries suffered during his time onboard ships made it difficult for him to exercise regularly. He also stated that the food on board was high in salt, sodium and fat, a far cry from the traditional Aboriginal diet of wild game, grains and berries he was accustomed to eating prior to joining the Navy. He also claimed that at one point, he struggled with alcoholism, drinking as many as three cases of 24 beers on the weekends. His personal struggles along with the fact that a large portion of the diet on board was composed of fatty, salt-rich were cited as contributing factors.

This all points to one question: what do Canadian sailors actually eat that’s so bad for them? In an interview with the Toronto Star, crew cook Master Cpl. Dana Haley, who served a crew of 255 members on the HMCS Winnipeg during a mission in Somalia back in 2009 offered some insight into the high-calorie diet: steak, pizza, turkey, eggs for breakfast and desserts with whip cream and anything deep-fried were all popular menu items on board the ship he served aboard. While it sounds rather delicious, it doesn’t take a nutritionist to know that the Navy favourites also sound rather fatty. Especially in comparison to the 47-year old sailor’s former diet, two thirds of which apparently involved grains and berries before his weight nearly doubled.

At first glance, it sure sounds slightly crazy that anybody involved in combat would have a weight problem in the first place or even develop one later on. After all, if a person wants to become a police officer or firefighter they have to meet a certain standard of fitness. The same goes for the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Navy. In fact, as of 2013, training includes completing vigorous physical activities like sprinting while carry 40 pound sand bags, for instance.

Yet interestingly enough, military and naval services from nations around the world have had their fitness standards and body fat limits revamped considerably over the last 20 years including the United States and Britain. Although Canadian Navy Lt. Len Hickey maintains current guidelines follow Canada’s Food Guide, perhaps the guidelines require further revisions. At least that’s what the Veterans Review and Appeal Board’s decision contends.

Even in light of all that, however, the smell of fresh bread and fried chicken probably isn’t going to be taken away from Canada’s Navy ships anytime soon. Good food is a huge morale booster in times of crisis and war. Ask any soldier or sailor that, regardless of what they weigh.