Recovery is Possible!

An Ode to the Almond Moms

It’s just about 2 in the morning when my siblings and I pile into the hotel room our mom had set up for a family weekend. With each of us getting older and going our separate ways in life–one in New York City, another in Jacksonville, a few in Atlanta–making these get-togethers happen was nothing short of a miracle. 


Exhausted from our day of traveling, we toss our stuff on the floor and begin winding down for the night, preparing ourselves for the early start we’ll be having in the morning. My mom, who has been excitedly walking around the room, pauses for a moment to grab our attention.


“Does it look like I’ve lost weight? I’ve lost almost ten pounds!”


My brother and I share a glance. 


It’s the middle of the night and my mom has already mentioned her body. But this isn’t anything new.


“Almond Moms” Trend Origin


The term “almond mom” only really entered the cultural zeitgeist last year, but the term is just another name for a familiar face: diet culture. Only this time, diet culture became synonymous with the stereotypical suburban mother, one with an obsession with thinness, perfectionism, and a need for control.


The original inspiration for the “almond mom” trend can be linked back to a resurfaced 2014 clip from Yolanda Hadid, a former model and mother to famous supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid. 


In the video, Yolanda advises her then-teenage daughter Gigi, who was feeling weak after eating little to nothing, to “have a couple of almonds, and chew them really well.” 


After the clip started making waves on modern social media, the term took off running.  Others began seeing their own childhoods reflected through Yolanda’s parental advice, remembering the times a loved one encouraged eating less in the pursuit of beauty and thinness. And more often than not, at the expense of their physical and mental health as well. 


What Almond Moms Represent


Almond moms are typically extremely restrictive with their diets, only eating light meals and snacks throughout the day like almonds, hence the name. 


They never partake in big family meals; instead, they take a few bites and then push their plate back, complaining of being too full.


Their houses are “ingredient households” rather than ready-to-eat pantries, so good luck ever trying to satisfy your hunger between meals.


They’ll also drop comments and other remarks about other people’s eating habits, making sure others are just as hyper-aware of food as they are.


These almond moms also tend to transfer their fears of overeating and, by extension, of food down to their children. Growing up in a home where one of your key role models actively avoids or restricts food and constantly makes remarks about eating habits is a perfect recipe for food insecurities and eating disorders.


Although almond moms are often depicted as mothers or other female caregivers, the name is open to interpretation. It can describe any parental figure that has carried their internalized traumas down to their children, setting up body shaming and food guilt for the next generation.


Off The Diet Culture Deep End


My mom’s constant fixation with her size is just one example of the millions of other mothers out there who were raised by diet culture. Entrenched in beliefs about how women should look and conduct themselves, she and others learned early in life about restriction and the consequences of not meeting beauty standards.


However, my mom isn’t the exact model of an almond mom, despite her continual preoccupation with weight. Almond moms must maintain a certain level of control, specifically over their children’s diets, but my mom never seemed to worry about that.


She mainly focused on herself, constantly seeking validation and comfort that she looked okay or “skinny” enough. She exercised as much as she could in her spare time, with me having plenty of memories of her on the treadmill or lifting weights in our old basement exercise room. 


No matter how much she exercised though, she never seemed happy. Even when she was losing weight, it never seemed enough for her. Every visit, every family get-together, there was always a question or a comment:


“Did you notice I lost weight?” “You seem really skinny, you should eat more.” “Does this shirt make me look big?” “Do I look fat?”


Despite her best efforts, even after going through years of weight gain and weight loss, she still hasn’t found peace with herself or her body. My mom was and is always looking for validation, and unfortunately, she tries to gain that by attaching her self-worth to a scale instead of reflecting on why she needs so much reassurance to be herself in her body. 


What Creates an Almond Mom


On the outside looking in, I know that she hasn’t been able to do the necessary internal work needed to process her body issues. Her anxiety about her body has been life-long, and I fear that might not be changing anytime soon. This is partially due to my mom’s avoidance of dealing with deep-seated, internalized problems, especially with how she grew up.


I said above that my mom isn’t exactly an almond mom. However, I know for a fact that one raised her: my grandfather.


Though she’s the type of person to forgive and forget, the treatment of my mother by her father still resonates in her behavior today. A product of the 40s, my grandfather’s viewpoint on how women should look is still just as backward as it was when my mom was growing up. 


Her dad constantly compared her to her smaller younger sister, often pinching their sides and any extra “skin” hanging off them as a point of ridicule.


He would constantly comment on how much they weighed, blatantly calling them fat for eating portions of food he’d disapprove of or eating food that was “bad” for having too many calories. 


He’s the same way even today, to the point my mom has to shush his excessive comments every time he sees me or my sibling’s plates at the dinner table. 


In all the years I’ve come down to visit my grandparents, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the man eat more than half a sandwich. If anything, his diet consists mostly of cigars and liquor. It’s almost like food isn’t even a necessity to him; just an overindulgence that should be limited in excess. 


Digging Up The Roots of This Internalized Shame


Like most online trends, the almond mom trend tends to gloss over the truth or the deeper reasoning for these behaviors. It’s in the nature of how people on the internet would rather spend time with light, comedic content that doesn’t need to get too serious. 


Videos like “Almond Moms on Thanksgiving” and “What my skinny middle aged mom eats in a day,” which are intended to be laughed off as nothing more than absurd eating habits, instead reveal the real-life repercussions of a lifetime of food denial. 


Even without the mention of eating disorders, many commenters with similar experiences with food chimed in, seeing themselves in the diets of the women on display. 


As someone with an ED, if anyone recorded me like this teasing me about it, I don’t think I’d ever eat again” 


“I hope she heals.”


“If you take a look at all the diet stuff fed to them in the 80s (when our parents grew up) it makes sense that they hardly eat.” 


And that’s on ✨orthorexia✨” 


My generation can call these things as they are, but the reality is that our parents probably won’t ever have the words to describe what food-restrictive and food-shaming experiences they grew up with 24/7, all the time.


The Generational Burden We (and Almond Moms) Carry


Going back to my grandfather, while I can step back and view his perspectives as they are: harmful, cruel, and unnecessary, my mom didn’t have the luxury in her time. Like so many parents her age, the same ones we label “almond moms” today, the dialogue around body size was downright traumatic, with body positivity or even just acceptance seemingly nonexistent.


This does not undo or excuse the harm that some almond moms and other restrictive parents have passed down to their children. However, I think there is always a space to hold some sympathy for their actions.


They might not even realize the harm they’re doing; in many cases, they mirror what their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and others taught them.


Especially with the older generations’ beliefs on the value of women lying mainly in their attractiveness, these almond moms might genuinely think they’re setting their children up for success in a world that still often judges people, particularly women, on their appearance. 


But, of course, the impact of this mindset is profound and lasting. 


Freeing Life With Peace and Acceptance 


Recognizing and identifying how your childhood has impacted your relationship with yourself and your body is critical. If we’re ever able to undo the damage that these generational beliefs have caused, we need to start by teaching ourselves kindness, compassion, and acceptance.


While I was mainly spared of the harmful body beliefs that were instilled in my mother, I still mourn for the person she could have been. Maybe someone more resilient and brave, able to untangle her identity and confidence intact from her father’s narrow perspectives. 


Instead, and to this day, I still have to ensure her that she looks good, that the diet has been working, that her efforts have paid off, lest she is sent on another self-hatred spiral. I can only hope that as we both get older, the conversations will turn from what we look like to what is most important: love and compassion for one another.


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