TikTok's 'Almond Mom' Trend Resurfaces Parenting And Diet Culture Concerns

Your relationship with food has a lot to do with your parents, specifically in the ways they talk to you about food and body image. Growing up, did you have a mom who was obsessed with trying to stay slim? Was she always trying new diet fads and exercise programs? Did she restrict certain foods you could eat because they were "bad" for you? If this sounds familiar, you may have grown up with what the internet refers to as an "almond mom."

Since last year, a TikTok trend has been exploding on the app, highlighting the ways parents and caregivers have pushed diet culture and body shaming onto their children. Under the hashtag #almondmom, thousands of users are making videos to not only poke fun but to call out the toxic behaviors of the diet-obsessed moms in their lives. These videos shed a fresh light on an issue that has been prevalent in America for decades before the internet.

What is an almond mom?

If you were a fan of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," you may remember the episode when the teenaged Gigi Hadid told her mom, "I'm feeling really weak. I had, like, half an almond." Her mom Yolanda, who was often seen throughout the show closely watching her daughter's diet, replied, "Have a couple of almonds and chew them really well." Thus, "almond mom" was born. A decade later, the internet has been using the term to talk about moms who have too strong a grasp on the physical appearance of their children and what they are eating.

The term "almond mom" refers to a mom, or any parental figure, who places enormous emphasis on the physical appearance of herself and others, her kids included. These moms may believe that "carbs are the devil" or ask things like, "Are you hungry or just bored?" They engage in harmful behaviors like restricting food intake, overexercising, or constantly body checking. Almond moms often pass on these behaviors and mindsets to their children, projecting their own negative body image onto their children. This could be anything from making comments about their child's weight to restricting certain foods and shaming a child for their eating habits. 

Children's brains are like sponges; they soak up nearly everything parents say or do. When parents begin showing their kids these behaviors at a young age, the effects can carry on throughout their entire lives.

How TikTokers are participating in the trend

The search for "almond mom" has over 800 million views on TikTok, with users making comedic videos about their personal experiences with almond moms. If you take a look at any of these videos' comment sections, you'll find hundreds of people saying how relatable the trend feels to them and how their moms act the same way.

One of the most popular users participating in this trend is a young woman named Tyler Bender (@tyler.benderr). She has made several viral videos about her childhood experiences growing up with an almond mom. For instance, she made a video re-enacting the times when she'd go to a friend's house and indulge in foods her mom would never let her eat at home. When she is offered a drink, she eagerly says, "I'll have Gatorade! We can only have water at home. My mom doesn't like us to drink our sugar."

Bender tells Good Morning America that the goal of her videos is not to glamorize restricted eating but to use humor to raise awareness for an important issue. "I think [the trend] has made parents more aware of like, 'I don't want to pass down my diet culture to my daughter and have her do the diet pills I did, so I'm going to watch my mouth now because kids see everything,'" Bender says.

The effects of diet culture

We cannot always necessarily blame these almond moms entirely for their behaviors, as they likely had their own versions of almond moms growing up. They have fallen susceptible to our society's diet culture, which dietician and author of the book "Anti-Diet" Christy Harrison defines as a "belief system that worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue (via Self)." 

For decades, our society has given the highest praise to those who remain skinny and has shamed those with larger bodies. This diet culture we live in makes people feel like they can't enjoy what they are eating because they are worried about gaining weight. It tells people that your worth depends on your size rather than who you are as a person.  

When people internalize these ideas, it can often lead to the disordered eating and body dysmorphia that almond moms project onto their children. This issue continues to remain prevalent in America, as the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reports that 28.8 million Americans will suffer with an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call or text the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at (800) 931-2237 for support and resources. If you are in a crisis and need help immediately, text "NEDA" to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line.

What parents can learn from the trend

If you are a parent watching these TikTok videos, they can certainly teach you how not to treat your children. It may be shocking to learn that maybe you have some almond mom tendencies, but it is possible to unlearn these habits. Healthy eating starts at home, and it is up to parents to give kids the proper tools to fuel their bodies without centering the conversation around weight and appearance.

It's important to not place shame around food. Labeling foods as "good" or "bad" can make children feel like they themselves are "good" or "bad" for what they eat. Instead, you can talk about how a certain food will give you energy or help you grow, rather than emphasizing a number on the scale. You can encourage physical activity because it is fun and good for you mentally, not because it will help you stay skinny.

Parents can begin to break the cycle of body hatred and instead raise their kids to love the skin they're in. Though the term "almond mom" centers around mothers, it can certainly apply to dads and other family members as well. All parents and caregivers should be mindful about the language they use around food and avoid placing shame around eating.

Healing your relationship with food

Your relationship with food is an important one. If you've had a parental figure who has had a negative impact on the way you think about food, it's important that you recognize and unlearn these harmful habits. You may hear your mom's voice in your head telling you not to eat that chocolate bar. Remember that you have your own voice. You are allowed to enjoy the food you love.

Sometimes the thought of completely loving our bodies can feel like a long and unrealistic journey, but we can start this journey with the concept of body neutrality. Coined by certified eating disorder specialist Anne Poirer, this term refers to no longer supporting hateful feelings towards your own body (via National Eating Disorders Association). Your value or happiness does not have to be linked to your body, and if you struggle with negative thoughts, focus on what your body does for you rather than how it looks. Instead of criticizing your body, these are a few things you can tell yourself instead: "My body helps me in many ways," and "How can I honor my body today?" and finally, "All bodies are different, and that's okay."