Today I’m going to address a letter from a mom whose daughter accuses her of being an almond mom. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this term, so I’ll start by giving you a quick overview.
An almond mom is a trend that blew up on TikTok in late 2022. It’s driven by girls and women who say their moms are almond moms. So it’s not really something that people claim for themselves. It’s put upon them, typically in a derisive or negative way.
TikTok almond moms
In general, according to these posts on TikTok, almond moms are basically moms who watch their food, weight and exercise and try to maintain a small body.
In the parodies, a girl might pretend to be her mom and say, “Oh, I’m not hungry. I’m just going to have a few almonds.” Other parodies focus on these moms saying things like “you’re not really hungry, you’re thirsty,” or “you’re probably not hungry, you’re just bored.” Or if you’re really hungry, the mom might say “just have a few almonds and you’ll feel better.”
An almond mom is often accused of teaching diet culture, food rules, and weight restriction to her children.
TikTok posts on this topic are mostly girls and young women who are parodying their mom’s behavior, which they characterize as disordered and destructive. These parodies include both criticism of almond moms and sometimes blames them for kids’ eating and weight issues.
My 17-year-old has an eating disorder, and we’ve done everything to get her the best treatment. Now my daughter accuses me of being an almond mom and says she has an eating disorder because of my own food and body issues.
I think this is both unfair and untrue. While it’s true that I do watch what I eat and have tried to raise our kids in a very healthy household (think: quinoa, kale, no sugar), I’ve always been really clear that this is about health, not weight. I exercise every day because it makes me feel good, and I’m proud that I can still fit into my high school jeans.
I don’t think I’ve caused my daughter’s eating disorder, but she is adamant. She has even posted her own TikTok videos, sometimes with me unknowingly in the background, calling me an almond mom. The more I fight it, the more adamant she becomes. What should I do?
Terry, I’m so sorry. Having a daughter with an eating disorder is challenging, and I can hear that you have done your very best to raise a healthy family. I can imagine that it’s very upsetting to be accused of causing your daughter’s eating disorder. And it must be especially difficult that she’s posting that accusation publicly.
My opinion on the almond mom trend is nuanced. First, it’s true that a parent’s relationship with food and body does impact their kids. So if your daughter has watched you practice weight control for her whole life, yes, that does make a difference in her own relationship with food and body.
And yes, we do know that when a mom watches her weight, her daughter notices and is more likely to develop disordered eating and exercise patterns.
Therefore, there is an important conversation we need to have about how parents’ attitudes impact how kids feel and behave. However, a daughter who publicly accuses her mom of being an almond mom feels like an unhelpful way to go about it. It’s pretty shaming.
Also, I encounter many dads who are at least as fixated on weight and eating as moms. The difference is that because of sexism, we are less likely to see dad’s weight control behaviors as problematic.
It’s always been common to throw moms under the bus when it comes to eating disorders, which to me sounds like misogyny. And anyway, nobody should be thrown under the bus when it comes to eating disorders.
Almond moms and disordered eating
To me, almond moms sound like moms who are struggling with their own disordered eating and even eating disorders.
This is the tragedy of diet culture. As long as almond moms look good and can function in their lives, they may remain unaware, undiagnosed, and untreated for their disordered behavior. This goes for the equivalent of almond dads, too, by the way.
As someone who lived for decades with an eating disorder, I can personally attest to how easy it is for eating disorders to fly under the radar because of diet culture. When I was seriously weight-suppressed, I was praised by others, including doctors and dietitians, for taking such good care of my body and being so disciplined.
But yeah, it was an eating disorder.
Of course, I am not here to diagnose anyone, particularly people on the Internet who are being accused of being almond moms. What I’m saying here is that almond moms make perfect sense in our culture, and public shaming is simply not an effective way to have these important conversations that we do need to have as women.
Almond moms make sense
We’re raised to value and pursue thinness. And while the word has changed to health, it’s often the same thing. When we were younger, the talk was all about losing weight and being thin. Today, we talk about being healthy, but many times it’s the very same thing, just wrapped up in different language.
Weight control is taught and prescribed in our culture every day. In this culture, a mom who’s being accused of being an almond mom is often just trying to do the right thing.
And this is really what the almond mom trend is exposing: the fact is that we live in a body-toxic culture. And we do need to evaluate our own relationship with food and our bodies for the sake of our kids.
So while I don’t like the idea of public shaming and making parodies of people who are doing their best, I do think it’s worth taking a hard look at the truth beneath the trend.
Look for the truth beneath the trend
I would consider whether there is any truth to be found in what your daughter is saying. I suggest you seriously consider your relationship with food, exercise and weight.
A child’s eating disorder should always trigger a complete evaluation of the food and body beliefs that permeate the household. Diet culture is so sneaky and pervasive. There is almost always at least some level of healthism, if not full-blown diet behavior going on.
It’s often invisible when you’re living inside it. It was for me. Diet culture beliefs are usually deeply entrenched and largely unconscious. I suggest talking to a non-diet dietician, therapist, or coach. They can support you in exploring how diet culture has impacted you.
No single person is to blame for an eating disorder. That’s simply not how they work. They’re biopsychosocial disorders. They’re complicated and nuanced. At the same time, parents have tremendous power over how their kids feel about weight, food and exercise.
So think of this work on yourself as a vital part of treating your daughter’s eating disorder. Because it is actually essential to her recovery that you do this.
Talking about TikTok
Meanwhile, let’s talk about how to talk about this difficult topic. A daughter who accuses her mom of being an almond mom has some important things to say. On the one hand, it would be great if you could listen to feedback and take it seriously. However, I don’t think parents should enable name calling and criticism.
This is an important conversation that you really need to have. Better communication begins with you no longer getting defensive when she makes an accusation.
Instead, validate that she has feelings and opinions. Own what is yours to own, and support her as she explores her food and body issues. The less you take her accusations personally and defensively, the more she will get in touch with her own feelings. And this will support her recovery.
This form of communication requires tremendous strength, maturity and vulnerability. And it will also positively affect your relationship for the rest of your life. So while it’s hard, it’s worth it.
A hard boundary
Meanwhile, I would ask her to stop publicly shaming you on TikTok. Additionally, tell her that she may not film you without your permission. She is old enough to understand personal boundaries. Also, it is completely acceptable, even necessary, for you to assert the right to privacy.
You can do this kindly, assertively and in a non-shaming way. This will model for her how to claim her own right to privacy in the future. In other words, this is a really important parenting moment.
Shifting your perspective on weight, eating and exercise will be hard, and this additional step of changing the way you communicate and setting boundaries is equally difficult. At the same time, both are essential to your daughter’s recovery, so I hope you’ll get some support and get started on this soon.
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