A number of US military personnel have turned to liposuction in an attempt to pass the Pentagon's body fat test, doctors say.
Some service members say they have no other choice because the Defense Department's method of estimating body fat is weeding out not just flabby physiques, but bulkier, muscular builds as well.
Dr Adam Tattelbaum, a plastic surgeon based in Rockville in Maryland, said soldiers call him in a panic.
"They come in panicked about being kicked out or getting a demerit that will hurt their chances at a promotion," he said.
The Defense Department uses what is called a "tape test" to make a body fat estimate by taking measurements of the waist and neck.
Those who fail are ordered to spend months in a vigorous exercise and nutrition programme, which Marines call the "pork chop platoon" or "doughnut brigade".
Even if they later pass, failing the test once can halt their promotions for years, service members say.
Failing three times can be grounds for getting kicked out, according to military officials.
A number of fitness experts are calling for the fitness standards to be revamped.
They say the Pentagon's weight tables are outdated and do not reflect that Americans are bigger, though not necessarily less healthy.
Fitness expert Jordan Moon said there is no reliable, economical way to measure body fat, and troops should be judged more by their physical performance so they are not feeling forced to go to such lengths to save their careers.
"We're sending people away who could be amazing soldiers just because of two pieces of tape," said Mr Moon, who has a doctorate in exercise physiology.
Defence officials say only a small fraction of those who exceed body fat limits perform well on physical fitness tests.
"Those incidences are far and few between," said Bill Moore, director of the US Navy's Physical Readiness Program.
"We want everybody to succeed. This isn't an organisation that trains them and says 'Hey, get the heck out'."
Pentagon officials say the military does not condone surgically altering one's body to pass the test, though liposuction is not prohibited.
The number of US Army soldiers booted for being overweight has jumped tenfold in the past five years from 168 in 2008 to 1,815.
In the US Marine Corps, the figure nearly doubled from 102 in 2010 to 186 in 2011, but dropped to 132 last year.
The US Air Force and the US Navy said they do not track discharges tied to the tape test.