If you aren’t on TikTok, then you might not be familiar with the term ‘almond mom.’ But if you are, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen one of the thousands of videos circulating about ‘almond mom behavior’ and its impact on viewers.
Have no idea what we’re talking about? Almond moms are parents or caregivers (not just mothers!) who model unhealthy relationships with food and/or exercise. Not only does it include caregivers who under-eat, but also those who over-exercise, restrict entire food groups, and place an unhealthy importance on appearance. Essentially, anyone who demonstrates disordered eating behaviors centered around body image falls within this category.
So, how did we get here? Well, the almond mom phenomenon emerged in the fall of 2022 – when triggering footage from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (that aired circa 2014) resurfaced. In it, the model Gigi Hadid told her mother, Yolanda, that she was feeling weak from hunger and had only eaten half an almond. Yolanda Hadid simply advised her daughter to “have a couple of almonds and chew them really well.” (Yikes.)
What Is an Almond Mom?
In a nutshell — pun intended — almond moms are parents (usually mothers, but not always!) who perpetuate diet culture and/or disordered eating. Subconsciously or not, they pass unhealthy eating and fitness habits onto their children. And because their behavior is often disguised as general health and wellness advice much of it goes unnoticed.
It’s important to note that almond moms aren’t inherently cruel or bad parents. In fact, their restrictive eating habits emerge from a complicated web of influences. More often than not, almond moms are products of toxic diet culture and performance pressure. And they’re usually suffering from eating disorders themselves.
Behaviors to Watch For
While we want to be empathetic towards almond moms, we can’t deny that their behavior is triggering. (This is especially true for people recovering from an underlying eating disorder.) Therefore, moms should be monitoring their own behaviors to ensure they aren’t passing any harmful mindsets or practices onto their children.
Generally, toxic behaviors associated with almond moms include (but aren’t limited to):
- Frequently commenting on their own — or their child’s — weight.
- Obsessing over their physical appearance. (Specifically: being thin.)
- Following strict diet regulations and encouraging their children to do the same.
- Frequently rotating between different diets and imposing them on their children.
- Restricting certain foods or food groups to maintain a certain weight or appearance.
Have you fallen victim to almond mom behavior? As we mentioned, many caregivers are unaware of the impact they’re having on their children. If you’re unsure whether you’re demonstrating disordered habits, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you comment on how much your child is eating?
- Do you impose intense diet regulations in your household?
- Do you frequently comment on your child’s weight or appearance?
- Are you often talking to your children about your eating habits and/or your appearance?
- Do you tell your children to refrain from wearing certain clothing because of the way they look?
Why Are Almond Mom Behaviors Problematic for Children?
Katherine Metzelaar, a registered dietician and founder of BraveSpace Nutrition, says that, “When almond moms teach their children to separate foods into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories, they cause children to believe that they are bad people when they consume ‘bad’ foods.”
Consequently, this causes a child to feel deep-rooted shame about their relationship with food, body image, and overall self. Kids who are raised by these so-called “almond moms” might feel like there’s something wrong with them — or that they’ve done something wrong — whenever they eat something that their caregiver has deemed ‘bad.’
Metzelaar says that another reason food restriction is harmful is because it leads children to believe that food is scarce. “Human bodies cannot tell the difference between food being restricted and not having access to food,” says Metzelaar. “In this way, from a biological perspective, your body may experience a need to overeat those restricted foods because you feel as if you may not ever have them again.”
Therefore, it’s not uncommon for the children of almond moms to succumb to patterns of restricting, binging, and purging. Unfortunately, those behaviors often continue into adulthood, causing long-term physical and emotional distress.
In addition to modeling unhealthy relationships with food, almond moms teach their children to hyper-fixate on physical appearance. Knowingly or not, they teach their children to value thinness and appearance over health. And as you can probably imagine, this is detrimental to a child’s mental and physical well-being.
Not only does it diminish a child’s confidence, self-esteem, and self-image, but it limits many childhood experiences including:
- Ability to play sports
- Anxiety in group settings
- Difficulty maintaining grades in school
- Heightened feelings of anxiety or depression
- Low confidence in dating and/or relationships
- Inability or difficulty speaking for themselves
Healthy Eating Habits to Model Instead
The best thing moms can do to avoid perpetuating unhealthy behaviors is to challenge diet culture head-on. Usually, this means unlearning damaging habits and replacing them with their healthier counterparts:
Explore Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating is the polar opposite of dieting. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, it’s all about “trusting your inner body wisdom to make choices around food that feel good in your body, without judgment or without influence from diet culture.”
Instead of following strict rules and regulations, intuitive eating relies on your internal hunger, fullness, and satiety cues to determine what (and how much) to eat. And instead of restricting certain foods or entire food groups, no meal is off the table. (Pun intended, again.)
Steer Clear of Food Shaming
Food is fuel, as you’ve probably heard. However, food is also connection and culture. Therefore, labeling meals as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ does nothing but create confusion, stress, and shame in what should be an enjoyable experience.
Instead of telling your child to simply ‘eat their veggies,’ try something like: ‘orange foods build immune strength.’ And if your child wants to eat a slice of cake—and you don’t want them to—tell them that sugar gives them energy, but dessert isn’t on the menu tonight. Then, ask them if they’d like to have a slice of cake tomorrow.
De-Emphasize the Scale
Obsessing over the number on the scale has long perpetuated disordered eating habits. So instead of focusing on weight and physical appearance, help your child understand how certain foods and movements make them feel. For example, teach them that exercising releases endorphins and that eating fish and veggies give us energy.
Role Model Moderation
Children learn by example. Therefore, role modeling moderation — like eating protein alongside produce — can help your child build healthy and sustainable eating habits. And if you’re ever concerned about your child’s eating or exercise routine, we recommend speaking with a medical or mental health provider.
Invite Your Children to Help with Meal Prep
Another way to combat almond mom behavior is to invite your children to help with meal prep, as the cooking process is a great way to demonstrate healthy eating habits.
Research shows that involving your kids in meal prep positively exposes them to new foods, which increases their likelihood of becoming adventurous eaters. Of course, there are several additional benefits:
- Decrease pickiness. When children familiarize themselves with new food, they’re more likely to have a positive perception of it. (And that means they’re more likely to eat it.)
- Increase veggie consumption. If kids feel pressured to try new foods — like vegetables — they’re actually less likely to do so. However, children who are involved in the cooking process are more likely to consume raw and cooked veggies at mealtime.
- Raise smart children. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to use cooking to teach kids about counting, fractions, measuring, science, vocabulary, and following directions.
- Increase confidence. Helping children develop cooking skills increases their self-confidence and helps them make healthy decisions.
Raising Healthy Kids
Because we live in a society brimming with toxic diet culture, it can be hard to avoid passing damaging eating and exercise habits onto our children. However, there are ways to prevent almond mom behavior from creeping into your parenting style.
Instead of emphasizing appearance and restricting entire food groups, moms should explore intuitive eating and other healthy eating habits. Not only will this help moms heal their own relationship with food, but it ensures they’ll raise a generation of healthy, unrestricted, and shameless children.