The recent TikTok trend of calling out mothers for being “almond moms” brings up the obvious question: are almond moms related to eating disorders? The answer is nuanced.
The almond mom trend blew up on TikTok in late 2022. It’s primarily driven by teens and young women posting videos that mock their moms for diet behavior like undereating and overexercising. These posts parody the mothers as being stuck in diet culture and eating disorder behavior. The mothers are presented as being rigid and ridiculous in their own weight control behavior. They also blame these mothers for inflicting diet culture on their daughters, even causing disordered eating and eating disorders.
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Almond moms are parodied saying things like:
- “Are you sure you’re still hungry, or are you just bored?”
- “I’m starving … I’ll just eat a few almonds, and that’s plenty.”
- “Sugar is the devil.”
- “A moment on your lips, a lifetime on your hips.”
- “I want you to eat healthy, so no junk food.”
- “No chips for you – have a couple of almonds instead.”
Is an almond mom helpful or harmful?
In the TikTok videos, an almond mom is presented as being silly, harmful, and sometimes traumatic. Almond moms are shown using classic diet behavior that were actively taught to girls and women in the 1990s, like cutting food into tiny bites, ignoring cravings, substituting desired food for less-palatable low-calorie food, ignoring hunger cues, counting calories/points, and believing that being in a small body is essential.
In the parodies these moms are passing these diet culture beliefs onto their kids. They teach their kids diet behaviors and restrict the food available in the home (e.g. no junk food). Almond moms also critique their kids’ hunger and appetite.
Can almond mom behaviors be linked to kids’ eating disorders?
Diet culture is a known contributor to eating disorders. Therefore, perpetuating and modeling diet culture at home can be linked to eating disorders. We know that how a family talks about eating, exercise and weight impacts how kids feel about them.
As biopsychosocial disorders, eating disorders are highly responsive to the home culture. So yes, almond moms may be linked to eating disorders, but it’s not a simple cause and effect. Eating disorders affect about 10% of the population. But I estimate that almond parent (diet) behavior is present in at least 80% of American households.
Not everyone with an “almond mom” will develop an eating disorder. And, of course, people who don’t have an “almond mom” may develop an eating disorder. In other words, having an almond mom may be a risk factor for an eating disorder, but it’s not the sole cause.
Do almond moms have eating disorders?
Many almond moms may be women with disordered eating and/or an unrecognized/undertreated eating disorder. Remember, moms today were raised in a highly body-toxic environment that actively taught girls and women to adopt diet culture. Women are both the primary target of the ~$80 billion diet industry and are mocked and vilified when they follow its rules. Ouch.
Surveys have identified disordered eating behaviors among at least three out of four American women. In 2013–2016, 49.1% of U.S. adults tried to lose weight in the last 12 months. All weight loss efforts utilize eating disorder behaviors, and intentional weight loss is a significant risk factor for developing an eating disorder.
Many adult women have active eating disorders that have never been identified or treated because they follow what the diet industry calls a “healthy lifestyle.” It is effortless for eating disorders to fly under the radar in our body-toxic diet culture.
It is impossible to diagnose strangers on the Internet, but I think we can have compassion for women being called almond moms because they may be living with some form of disordered eating, if not full eating disorders.
My opinion on the almond mom trend
I think the almond mom trend exposes a dangerous thing that we know is common in homes. It’s a conversation we must have. However, I don’t think publicly shaming women is a helpful way to resolve the pernicious nature of diet culture.
The truth is that when parents (including dads!) are stuck in disordered eating and diet culture, they can’t help but model that for their kids. Even parents who say they are focused on health, not weight, show their kids that weight is a huge deal by controlling their own body size with disordered eating and exercise patterns.
The fact is that when parents are stuck in diet culture, their kids are at higher risk of eating disorders. So I think we need to have more conversations about how parents’ attitudes towards food and weight issues need to change.
At the same time, I’ve seen some really upsetting TikTok videos in which “almond moms” are filmed without their knowledge and mocked for their disordered behaviors while eating. I’m absolutely not a fan of public shaming or invasions of privacy, especially when it comes to something as personal and fraught as a woman eating.
If you’re an almond mom
If you think you might be an almond mom, thank you for being vulnerable to notice that! It’s hard to look at ourselves in a negative light. If you have been accused of being an almond mom, I’m sorry. It’s not nice to be called names.
Either way, being an almond mom is a call to action. I invite you to explore your beliefs and behaviors about eating, exercise, and weight. Diet culture is virtually invisible when we’re stuck inside its tangled web. I know – I’ve been there! But it’s essential that you do the work to uncover diet culture beliefs and heal from your harmful behaviors, for your kids’ sake and your own.
Here are some steps to get started:
- Learn about diet culture and a non-diet approach to health
- Talk to a non-diet dietitian, therapist, or coach for expert feedback and advice
- Ask yourself how your beliefs about your weight have shaped your health behaviors
- Consider the impact of your weight-control behaviors on your child(ren)
- Heal your relationship with eating, exercise, and weight so you can pursue a healthy lifestyle without weight control
- Talk to your child about what you’re learning and apologize for past behavior if necessary
- Don’t stop exploring! Diet culture is deeply ingrained. Keep working to counteract weight stigma and weight control beliefs and behaviors.
While I don’t like the method, I think the almond mom trend on TikTok has a lot to teach parents everywhere. Our kids are watching us all the time, and they are affected by our beliefs about weight, eating, and exercise. If you think you might have an eating disorder, please reach out for help and support. You deserve it!
Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders. She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents navigate their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.