Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

When we “Break Bread," we build social bonds

Picture of military personnel sitting at a table eating food together Marines with 1st Marine Division eat a warrior's breakfast at the awards ceremony for Supersquad 2020, on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton last summer (Photo by: Marine Gunnery Sgt. Chad Pulliam).

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Nutritional Fitness

Throughout history, people have bartered, decided the fates of nations, and built friendships all over meals. Within traditional military units there are key social times when meals have historically been shared: hails and farewells, promotions, and celebrating historical dates. Often these are labeled as "mandatory fun", but perhaps they play a bigger role. The sharing of meals has been shown to improve feelings of closeness, increase satisfaction with life, enhance team performance, and influence food choices.

Within the Total Force Fitness (TFF) framework, the 'Social Fitness' domain includes the ability to engage in healthy social networks and promotes overall well-being and for optimal unit performance. The global pandemic has forced physical distancing, closed indoor seating, minimized group size, and discouraged shared meals.

This, in turn, is discouraging the use of social meals in fostering social fitness. Countering any negative effects on social fitness, team cohesion, life satisfaction, and overall health among military members should be an important consideration.

A team is only as strong as its weakest link, and developing opportunities for social networking can promote team cohesion.

Unfortunately, per the Department of Defense Annual Suicide Report, suicide rates among military members was at an all-time high in 2019, with nearly 26 per 100,000 service members committing suicide. Concerns have already been voiced that the stress of the COVID-19 might drive these numbers even higher in 2020 and 2021.

Eating socially has been shown to influence happiness and life satisfaction; specifically participating in evening meals with more people, more laughter, reminiscing and alcohol consumption resulted in individuals feeling closer to those with whom they ate. It therefore makes sense for military leaders to find ways to promote social networking and team cohesion during a pandemic and adding a food element could help support those opportunities.

Social scientists have suggested that the phrase "you are what you eat" should be replaced with "you are what the people in your social circle eat". Eating habits and food choices seem to be influenced by the social circle that people belong to, so much so that "prior eating habits of friends have been shown to predict current eating patterns".

Perhaps, now is a time to capitalize on influencing food choices by creating virtual shared food experiences that can promote healthy eating habits and develop social connectedness.

Ways to Promote Social Connectedness and Fitness over Food during a Pandemic

  • Virtual happy hour - Pick a non-work topic and afford your team an opportunity for everyone to unwind with a beverage or snack of their choice and share in quality conversation.
  • Virtual networking event - Set up the event to include members of your team based on an interest or a team topic.
  • Virtual cooking classes - The class could include a specific recipe, with a list of ingredients for each person to pick up ahead of time, so that each participant cooks the recipe and the group eats the final product together. This would promote cooking skills while combining the opportunity for social conversation. Reach out to your local Military Treatment Facility to see if their nutrition professionals would be willing to provide a class, recipes, or both.
  • Virtual dinner party - Develop a menu, incorporating fresh foods. Send out the shopping list in advance with the recipe. Advise all participants to have their food plated and be seated in front of their electronic device at the start of the dinner party. The menu can be as elaborate or as simple as you'd like. Reach out to your local Military Treatment Facility to see if their nutrition professionals would be willing to provide recipes or suggestions for your menu.

Get creative, build your team, and incorporate healthy options to promote health and social connectedness.

To learn more, or get support - reach out to your military medical treatment facility nutrition professionals for assistance incorporating healthy options or seek out additional online resources by accessing the Human Performance Resources by the Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP).

You also may be interested in...

Total Force Fitness Physical

Infographic
7/21/2021
Total Force Fitness - Total Body Preventive Health and Physical Fitness - Ability to physically accomplish all tasks while remaining mission capable and avoiding injury

Total Force Fitness - Total Body Preventive Health and Physical Fitness - Ability to physically accomplish all tasks while remaining mission capable and avoiding injury

Recommended Content:

August Toolkit | Total Body Preventive Health and Total Force Fitness | Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

AJ-Maste Yoga: Tips for a Healthy Deployment

Article
7/13/2021
Military personnel doing a yoga pose

Yoga comes in many forms and fashions, and has proven health benefits.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Total Force Fitness

Avoid summertime food poisoning with these easy tips

Article
7/9/2021
Someone cooking on a grill

Food safety in the summer is just as important as sunscreen

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Summer Safety

CHAMP uses more predictive analytics to improve beneficiary healthcare

Article
7/8/2021
A game of tug-of-war

Military health innovation and Total Force Fitness go hand-in-hand.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Health Innovation Month | Health Innovation – Pathways to Ready Reliable Care | Health Innovations across the MHS Enterprise | MHS Research Symposium

Turn Post-traumatic Stress Into Post-traumatic Growth

Article
6/30/2021
PTSD Infographic

Myths and facts about post-traumatic stress (PTS) and post-traumatic growth (PTG).

Recommended Content:

June Toolkit | PTSD Awareness Month | Total Force Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Aphasia, Caused by Stroke or TBI, is Frustrating and Little Known

Article
6/29/2021
A doctor looking at brain scans

Aphasia is an incurable disease usually caused by stroke that affects all forms of communication.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Heart Health | Centers of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury

TFF cogs Environmental 1200x675

Infographic
5/19/2021
Social media graphic for Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention Month and Environmental Fitness

“Vision and Hearing and Environmental Fitness Ability to perform tasks in any environment"

Recommended Content:

June Toolkit | Total Force Fitness Toolkit | Total Force Fitness | Environmental Fitness | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

TFF cogs Physical 1200x675

Infographic
5/19/2021
Social media graphic for Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention Month and Physical Fitness

“Vision and Hearing and Physical Fitness. Ability to physically accomplish all tasks while remaining mission capable and avoiding injury.”

Recommended Content:

June Toolkit | Total Force Fitness Toolkit | Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

Ten ways parents can help kids make good nutritional choices

Article
4/27/2021
Image of a colorful plate outlining the portions and serving sizes of each type of food.

Nutrition is a key element of Total Force Fitness, but it’s just as important to encourage kids to make smart nutritional choices.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Month of the Military Child Toolkit | Children's Health | Nutritional Fitness

Total Force Fitness COGS Psychological

Infographic
4/26/2021
Total Force Fitness social media graphic showing the multi-colored Total Force Fitness logo, an orange Psychological Fitness shuttlecock.

Total Force Fitness Mental Health and Psychological Fitness Ability to integrate and improve cognitive, emotional, and behavioral capabilities to optimize performance and ensure mission readiness

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Toolkit | Total Force Fitness | Psychological Fitness

Total Force Fitness Circle Logo

Infographic
4/26/2021
Total Force Fitness logo showing the eight domains swirling in a circle

"Total Force Fitness”

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Toolkit | Total Force Fitness | Mental Health and Total Force Fitness

Total Force Fitness COGS Environmental

Infographic
4/26/2021
Total Force Fitness social media graphic showing the multi-colored Total Force Fitness logo, a green Environmental Fitness shuttlecock.

“Total Force Fitness Mental Health and Environmental Fitness Ability to perform tasks in any environment”

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Toolkit | Total Force Fitness | Environmental Fitness | Mental Health and Total Force Fitness

Do sports / energy drinks enhance individual performance?

Article
4/12/2021
Military health personnel wearing face mask discussing food options

While there are many energy sports drinks are available, their overall value varies.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Nutritional Fitness

Dietetic interns train to better MHS beneficiaries nutrition, health

Article
4/5/2021
Military health personnel wearing face mask while discussing food options

Registered dietitians, exercise therapists, dietetic interns and other team members in the Nutrition Services Department at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, assist patients and staff in developing healthy eating and lifestyle habits.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness

The difference between Celiac Disease & Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Article
3/26/2021
Close up picture of slices of bread

Celiac disease is not a food allergy; it's an autoimmune disease diagnosed through a blood test.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness
<< < 1 2 3 4 5 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 5

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.