Gigi, age 18 at the time, had already mentioned to her mom that she was feeling weak from hunger and had only eaten half an almond. This was not the only time Yolanda seemed to advise her daughter to forgo food for the sake of her modeling career. (Yolanda has said that the comment, which she made while waking up from surgery, was taken out of context.)
Thus the term “Almond Mom” was born, and it is now used to refer to people who encourage or perpetuate diet culture or disordered eating behavior in children, thus passing unhealthy eating habits from generation to generation.
To be clear, it’s not only mothers; any parent, caregiver, family friend, or relative can perpetuate unhealthy eating behaviors in children by body-shaming or using language that promotes diet culture.
If you type #almondmom on TikTok, videos include “what’s in my mom’s cabinet,” “what my mom eats in a day,” and “acting like my almond mom.” With over 77.3 million views on the hashtag, people on TikTok have been sharing how their parent’s toxic relationship with food impacted their own.
As a result of the TikTok trend, more parents are sharing ways they promote a positive relationship with food for themselves and their children. That includes stepping away from the restrictive practices and toxic “almond mom” phrases they were subjected to when growing up. From acknowledging their own food habits and trying to break generational patterns, people on TikTok are talking about sociocultural pressures, promoting family meal time, and healing their self-image.
TikToker Lily Rosenthal, 19, posted a video sharing her mom’s comments about food and her body that affected Rosenthal’s own relationship with food. “Humor is how I and a lot of people cope with trauma, so I tend to try and make light of my hardships to help me and others heal and grow,” she told BuzzFeed News.
Her video now has over 500,000 views, 160,000 likes, and 450 comments from other users who shared similar comments their parents have made.
“She was a great mother, but made me hyper-aware of my body and societal beauty standards at a very early age,” Rosenthal said. “I guess having grown up seeing food as ‘bad’ and something that ‘makes you fat,’ I grew a toxic relationship that I could never really shake. I still struggle with eating and body image to this day and think that I always will.”
Bailey Stuart's video about "all the toxic mantras" her almond mom lives by was among the top liked on the app with over 3.6 million views.
Some “Almond Mom” phrases
Here are some examples of harmful diet culture or “Almond Mom” phrases:
- Once past the lips, forever on the hips
- Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels
- Are you sure you want to eat that?
- You’re not hungry, you’re bored
- New year, new (and skinnier) me
- You and me are going on a diet together
“Parents are the biggest role model and influence on eating practices and body image,” said Dr. Karla Lester, a pediatrician and life coach for teens and parents. “If parents have a diet culture thinking about food and body image, there is a lot of judgment and [it] brings restrictive eating practices into the family.”
If a parent was under pressure to diet during their teenage years or childhood, some may encourage their children to follow the same restrictive practices they endured. Parents can create a negative family eating environment in routines and snacking habits, and strictly monitor the types and amount of food their children eat in a way that’s detrimental or harms their relationship with their diet.
Some studies have found that restricting access to certain “forbidden” foods, like cookies, can make children request and consume more when they do get a chance to eat them.
While many parents want to encourage their children to choose healthier options, there are ways to do so that aren’t harmful, Lester said.
“There are parents who promote a positive body image, who have family meal times, who focus on role modeling, but not in a strict way,” Lester said. “They don’t feel like they have to be perfect. They are role models of self-compassion.”
Additionally, children’s relationships with food aren’t just affected by restrictions and comments from family members, but also by watching their parents struggle with their own relationships with food and dietary habits. Parents who follow strict dietary restrictions can accidentally influence their children.
“My mom would tell me about her 800-calorie diets, and I began to think that was normal,” Rosenthal said. “I started dieting when I was 8 years old, and developed an eating disorder by age 12 that lasted until I was 18.”
“Instead, focus on creating a healthier environment in the home and never talk about weight because it’s really not necessary.”
Parents adopt eating habits and relationships with food from their parents, and like many people, from Western society in general. If your body shape and size don’t match society’s “ideal body image,” it can result in body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and the risk of eating disorders.
An intense focus on foods that are “good” or “bad” or clean eating (a nonspecific word that implies that some foods are “dirty”) can play a role in orthorexia, an eating disorder where an intense focus on “healthy living” leads to restrictive and unhealthy eating practices or excessive exercise.
“Parents can be stuck in this place of fatphobia and this pursuit of thin privilege that our society promises,” Lester said. “Instead, focus on creating a healthier environment in the home and never talk about weight because it’s really not necessary.”
Raised in the early 2000s, Rosenthal is now aware of the heavy pressure her parents faced to fit unrealistic societal expectations.
“When I was born, my parents had already seen the shift of societal beauty,” Rosenthal said. “I’m positive that it must have impacted their relationship with food one way or another. Also, the early 2000s was a prime time for supermodels who promoted eating disorders and extreme diet culture. Chances are, I was born right as these deep-stemmed insecurities were being resurfaced, which didn’t help my case.”
How parents are avoiding toxic “almond mom” language
There are ways to raise children with healthy relationships with food, even if you didn’t have that experience growing up, according to Erika Velez, a licensed clinical psychologist.
As a result of societal expectations on body image, connecting thinness with success, beauty, and even high status, body dissatisfaction, unfortunately, has been normalized. “We must acknowledge that many parents still struggle with food themselves,” Velez said.
Velez told BuzzFeed News that people can end the cycle of unhealthy habits perpetuated by their parents by making conscious efforts to not pass on a negative relationship with food to the next generation.
“Parents have an invitation to heal their relationship with food for themselves by being mindful of their eating habits, the way that they speak about them, and not to comment on people’s bodies.”
Melissa Leah Hughes, a certified health coach and mom of two, said the “almond mom” TikTok trend, along with others that include dieting content, highlights how harmful diet culture can be for moms and their children.
“Having these all-clean trends and doing that to our children does not help them manage food,” Hughes said. “If they never experience food in a variety, they are not going to be able to know how to handle them or really how to navigate what that food is or tastes like.”
As a mom herself, she’s focused on creating a balanced and healthy eating environment for her kids.
“We are healthy in our home — I want to be clear. I’m the kind of mom who gives her kids kale and chicken nuggets. I often have healthy options available on the table, but when we’re eating food, I always say, ‘I’m putting it on your plate, but you don’t have to eat it,’ and not drawing attention to it,” Hughes said. “Food is meant to be enjoyed and not to be forced.”
People like Hughes continue to promote healthy foods but not restrict them — a tip she learned from her parents, who shied away from restrictive practices and instead filled cabinets with healthy foods, but also provided snacks.
“Foods didn’t just consist of salads and all these overly healthy foods. My mom never told me to finish all the food on my plate, and there was a real positivity towards food,” Hughes said. “I was never restricted either. My mom wouldn’t say, ‘only take one,’ so I knew it was available if I wanted more.”
Moushumi Brody, a mother of three who learned the term “almond mom” from TikTok, finds the trend highlights the cultural and societal pressure for women to be thin, she said.
“In a competitive society, almond moms may be comparing their daughters to their friends’ daughters and associate those successes with being pretty and thin,” Brody said. “They have unrealistic expectations of them and possibly ones they faced as young girls, which unfortunately survives in their parenting. This can have a dangerous impact on girls. It makes them feel as though they are a disappointment to their parents, and that they will never be good enough.”
Brody says that in Indian culture, food is a hero — not a villain. “Food is our friend. Food is life,” Brody said. “My teen daughter is an athlete, and she is exceptionally active. Food is extremely important to her health and gives her the mental and physical energy to be her best self on the volleyball court, to make the right choices, and to have the brainpower to focus in school.”
In response to the “almond mom” trend, she made her own TikTok on how she creates a positive environment for her 13-year-old daughter.
“We’re now having more open conversations, especially on social media,” Lester said. “These TikTok trends are really helpful to say ‘wait, this is not okay.”