Almond Parenting aka "Almond Moms" and Diet Culture
Updated: Mar 14
Where did the term “Almond Mom” come from?
The term “almond mom” is a fairly new label for certain types of parents that has come to rise over social media. The term stemmed from a clip of Yolanda Hadid, the mother of Gigi Hadid, a famous American model, who told Gigi to only “eat a few almonds and chew them really well” when Gigi told her she was feeling weak after “eating like half of an almond”.
Many users who saw the clip, as well as many others of Yolanda obsessing over Gigi’s diet, related to it and began sharing their experiences of having parents who acted as food police, referring to them as “almond moms”.
As the clip spread, the internet went wild and criticized Yolanda for pushing Gigi to practice disordered eating behaviors, because many users knew what it was like to grow up with an almond mom.
Almond moms, who can also be dads, are parents that are consumed by diet culture. They feel so strongly about what their body size and shape should be that they influence how their family thinks about their own body image. They not only police what and how they eat themselves, but also their family around them.
Before we can really dive into what makes someone an “almond mom”, we have to understand what diet culture is and how it fuels almond parenting behavior.
What is Diet Culture?
Diet culture is a set of beliefs that is rooted in the idea that our worth is based on our appearance. It prioritizes thinness over health and encourages weight loss as a way to reach a higher social status.
This system of beliefs is what has created our culture’s obsession with body size and losing weight no matter the cost to our physical and mental well being. It has us convinced that the only way to be happy and healthy is to be skinny, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Diet culture has shaped what society views as the unrealistic beauty standard. It supports the diet industry, which has now grown to be worth over $70 billion dollars by convincing us that we’re not good enough, or healthy, unless our bodies are small.
Everyone is affected by diet culture, including children. Research has shown that children as young as three years old would change their body size if they could. According to a survey of 1118 preadolescent children:
“Bias toward thinness among females occurred across all levels of age, weight, race, and school/community setting, with 42% desiring thinner figures. Results of this study suggest that the onset of disparate figure perceptions and expectations regarding thinness among females may be evident as early as 6 and 7 years of age” (Collins, 1991).
One reason it’s so easy to be influenced by diet culture is because of weight stigma. Weight stigma is when someone experiences discrimination because of their body size. It exists because of how diet culture has taught us to think about weight.
In order to avoid weight stigma, we follow the rules of diet culture. Either way, it’s a losing game, unless we fight to end them both.
Almond moms promote diet culture, which consequently promotes weight stigma and fatphobic ways of thinking. How do they do this?
Almond Mom Behaviors and Why They’re Problematic:
Dieting is regulating food intake for the sake of weight loss. Diets are problematic for many reasons, but the most distinct reason is food restriction and counting calories. Counting calories and restricting how much food you eat, or the types of food you eat, is problematic because they are eating disorder behaviors.
Symptoms of anorexia nervosa include: restriction of food intake resulting in low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, negative body image, fixation on food, calories, and dieting, and “a sudden change in dietary preferences, such as eliminating certain food types or food groups” (Cleveland Clinic). Sound a little familiar to what dieting is?
Oftentimes, because dieting behaviors mimic behaviors you see in eating disorders, they can be the first stepping stone to developing a full blown eating disorder. Almond moms and dads passing these ways of thinking onto their children can be extremely dangerous.
You may lose weight as a result of dieting, but at what cost?
Not only that, but 95% of diets fail. By fail, we mean that only 5% of people who diet keep the weight off for more than 3 years. Weight cycling (also called yo-yo dieting) is repeated weight gain and loss, which is actually much worse for your health than maintaining the same body weight, regardless of size.
Another consequence of restriction through dieting is the increased chance of bingeing. The more you try to diet and restrict, the more your body and mind will change to adapt to being in survival mode.
You will reach a point where your brain will tell you to consume large amounts of food for the sake of survival. As cravings escalate, you will eventually give in, and find yourself experiencing a loss of control when eating. In fact, a study conducted showed that “post-diet binges occurred in 49% of people who end a diet” (Tribole & Resch, 2020).
The same idea applies to children. The more almond moms and dads restrict their children from having certain food types, the higher the chance becomes of that child bingeing on restricted foods when they are available to them.
Almond moms and dads simply engaging in diet behavior in front of their kids can be dangerous. Parents don’t have to outwardly talk about how they are dieting or excessively exercising to lose weight- children see what their parents do and copy behaviors. Almond parents pass disordered eating behaviors onto their children, and it makes a big impact on how kids view themselves and food long-term.
Another aspect of dieting that you’ll see in almond moms and dads is moralizing food. This is when someone labels food as “good” or “bad”. This may seem insignificant, but it has a lot of consequences.
When we label a food, what exactly do we mean when it’s “bad” or “good”? Is it how it tastes, the ingredients it contains, how it was made? Labeling foods oversimplifies all of the cultural, social, and nutritional importance it has. Think about food that you enjoy during a special time of the year, like your birthday for example. If cake equates to “bad”, when you’re celebrating around family and friends at a party, is it still “bad”?
Labeling foods negatively impacts our relationship with it. Eating is supposed to be pleasurable, not shameful or stressful depending on what we eat. Almond parents moralizing foods with their children’s food choices teaches them how to have a negative relationship with food.
Restricting foods that are “bad” also leads to an increased chance of bingeing, similar to what we discussed about dieting. Sometimes the more we tell ourselves we can’t have something, the more we want to have it. Once you get it, it can be hard to control the quantity you consume.
Foods that we label “good” creates a divide that encourages looking at other foods as “bad”. Food has no moral value to it, even though diet culture wants us to think otherwise. How you feel about yourself shouldn’t be influenced by what you had for dinner.
It is also not fair to moralize foods when not everyone has equal access to “good” foods. Food deserts are areas in the country where there are no conveniently accessible options to find affordable and healthy food.
Food deserts are typically found in areas that have smaller populations and areas where the residents have lower levels of education and income, and higher unemployment rates. According to The Annie E. Casey Foundation:
“Nearly 39.5 million people — 12.8% of the U.S. population — were living in low-income and low-access areas, according to the USDA’s most recent food access research report, published in 2017. Within this group, researchers estimated that 19 million people — or 6.2% of the nation’s total population — had limited access to a supermarket or grocery store.”
Labeling foods as “good” or “bad” creates guilt in everyone, especially those who can’t easily access what is labeled as “good”.
Moralizing food and diet talk can go hand-in-hand depending on the conversation. Diet talk is conversation or language that revolves around diet behaviors, like restricting or excessive exercise, for the sake of changing one's body size. Comments about other people's body shape or size, and anything about someone else’s food choices can also be considered diet talk.
Here are some examples of diet talk:
- “Wow you look amazing! Did you lose weight?”
- “Are you really going to eat all of that?”
- “It’s okay for me to eat this today because I’m having a cheat day.”
- “I don’t think you should eat that because it doesn’t follow our diet.”
- “If I ate like you I would gain so much weight!”
- Labeling foods as “good”, “clean”, “sinful”, “bad”
- Talking about a diet or exercise routine with the goal of losing weight
Almond moms and dads frequently engage in diet talk with anyone they’re talking to, including their children. This is problematic for children, as well as everyone else, because it indicates that certain body types are wrong, and promotes moralizing food choices.
Comments that mean well, such as “Wow you look amazing! Did you lose weight?” come off as a nice thing to say, but if said to someone suffering from an eating disorder, comments like these encourage them to continue practicing dangerous behaviors. It’s motivation to continue restricting/purging/excessively exercising/etc. because the comment validated that they are appearing smaller.
Any kind of diet talk also supports diet culture, and we now understand why that is not okay. To avoid doing this, aim to make comments that don’t relate to appearance. For example:
- “You look so happy today!”
- “I admire how creative you are.”
- “You are so smart, I love learning new things from you.”
- “I love how much you make me smile.”
- Making compliments that aren’t about appearance not only fights back against diet culture, they come off as much more genuine and meaningful.
The clips of Yolanda Hadid and her daughter Gigi that coined the term “almond mom” were all examples of Yolanda engaging in diet talk. Yolanda repeatedly criticized Gigi’s food choices, urged her to stick to her diet, and overreacted to her eating a single bite of cake by commenting, “I can’t believe we did that”. Yolanda is an extreme version of an almond mom, but even subtle almond mom behavior is dangerous.
If you’re concerned that you may be an “almond mom”, it’s never too late to make changes to your way of thinking, and reading this blog was a great first step to making that change. It’s not uncommon for almond parents to be unaware of the influence they were having on their children and why it is problematic. Most parents mean well and want their children to be healthy, without realizing the consequences of engaging in diet culture.
If you were raised by “almond parents” and struggle with your relationship with them, here are a few resources to check out to help you find ideas on how to cope:
- What to do when your own mother triggers you: https://recoverywarriors.com/mom-triggering/
- “Almond Mom” Behavior Can Be Triggering- Here’s How to Cope: https://www.wellandgood.com/almond-mom-behavior/
- Taking back the power – how to reduce the impact of diet culture on your life: https://butterfly.org.au/taking-back-the-power-how-to-reduce-the-impact-of-diet-culture-on-your-life/
- 6 Ways to Combat Diet Culture: https://www.eatingrecoverycenter.com/blog/combat-diet-culture
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, there are resources to help you. Contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) helpline for support if you need it. Visit https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline for options to call, text, or chat online with a helpline volunteer.
Please consider helping us help others who need us the most.
Braude, L. (2020, March 6). The perils of labelling food as ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ The BMI Clinic.
Retrieved January 25, 2023, from https://bmiclinic.com.au/the-perils-of-labelling-food-as-
Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Anorexia nervosa: What it is, symptoms, diagnosis & treatment. Anorexia
Nervosa. Retrieved January 25, 2023, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/
Collins, M. (1991). Body figure perceptions and preferences among preadolescent children.
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Danice, K. (2022, April 4). Why diets fail: What the science suggests. Fullscript. Retrieved January
24, 2023, from https://fullscript.com/blog/why-diets-fail
The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2021, February 14). Food Deserts in the United States. The Annie
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Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2020). Hitting Diet Bottom. In Intuitive eating: A revolutionary anti-diet
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