How to Handle the Almond Mom in Your Life
TikTok can be a chaotic place with new trends, influencers, and viral recipes popping up (and fizzling out) seemingly overnight. But one powerful aspect of TikTok is its ability to create a sense of community, largely thanks to creators’ ability to point a finger at those experiences so many of us have lived through but have never thought to talk about or name. One recent example? Almond moms.
The term “almond mom” first emerged in the fall of 2022 after a 2014 clip of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” resurfaced. The clip shows Yolanda Hadid, the mom of supermodels Bella and Gigi Hadid, telling Gigi to “eat a couple of almonds and chew them well” after Gigi told her she felt “really weak” since she had only eaten “half an almond.” (For the record, Yolanda told People the clip was taken out of context.)
Quickly, “almond mom” became a shorthand that describes any parent, guardian, or authority figure who’s a victim of diet culture (not just moms) — someone unhealthily preoccupied with “healthy” eating, exercise, and body image. Now, #almondmom now has over 191 million views on TikTok, with thousands of people posting videos and memes of their own almond-mom experiences.
For someone who’s had or known an almond mom, watching these videos can feel a lot like a final puzzle piece falling into place. Yes, that’s what it feels like to be asked if you’re “just thirsty” every time you reach for a snack. It’s confusing, demeaning, exasperating — and when meme-ified, a little bit funny, too.
The growing awareness of the harms of diet culture and the continued trend toward body positivity are what allows almond moms to be turned into a punch line, says James Miller, a psychotherapist who specializes in body image and the host of “Lifeology Radio” on iHeartRadio. “Some of the younger people who are listening and watching TikTok are now realizing how toxic [this behavior] is,” Miller says. “There’s been a shift in our culture to really recognize and validate body positivity.”
It’s fun to laugh at the memes, but when someone close to you is an almond mom, it can also be stressful. One trait of almond moms is that they don’t keep their diet-culture beliefs to themselves — they push them onto the people around them, and it’s easy to internalize that kind of messaging.
But Miller says it’s possible to protect your own well-being without necessarily cutting off contact with the almond mom in your life. These tips can help.
What Is an Almond Mom?
Simply put, an almond mom is a person (typically a parent, although coaches, teachers, babysitters, and others aren’t exempt) who doles out unhealthy eating advice and projects their own diet struggles and perception of what body image looks like onto a child, says Miller. These people are prone to offering unsolicited fitness and nutrition tips — supposedly “healthy” advice that at best is none of their business, and at worst is downright toxic and harmful. (Think: “If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not hungry at all.”)
These messages can make a young person feel like their value is contingent on their weight, clothing size, or appearance, rather than an intrinsic aspect of their personality and character, Miller says. Over time, this can promote insecurity and even eating disorders, he explains.
How to Handle an Almond Mom
It can be helpful to understand that almond moms usually don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong or harmful. “Most parents come from a very benevolent approach, and they impose what they believe to be true and healthy,” says Miller.
A parent or authority figure often repeats what they were taught as a child or what they’ve gleaned in experience through their younger years, he explains. In other words, almond moms often don’t have ill will — they’re victims of diet culture, and they honestly believe what they’re saying is helpful. But even so, there may be a disconnect between what they believe and reality.
If you have an almond mom in your life, it’s possible to set boundaries that protect your own mental well-being. Miller suggests starting by addressing comments in the moment by saying something like, “I really appreciate you wanting to help me with this, but I find that when you say these things, it really hurts my feelings or causes me to feel [fill in the blank].”
If the person keeps up with the same behavior, you can reinforce that boundary by saying, “This is how I feel, this hurts my feelings, and I need you to stop,” Miller says.
If they still continue to make the same type of comments, the third step is to set a consequence, says Millers. “You can say, ‘I need you to stop doing that, and if you don’t stop, I’m going to walk away or remove myself from the situation.”‘
Then, you do what you said — if they make a similar comment again, you follow through with the consequence. This will likely feel very uncomfortable, Miller acknowledges. But remember: your actions aren’t meant to teach this person a lesson; they’re meant to protect your mental health.
These conversations can be stressful and tense, but there’s often not much you can do to change a parent’s behavior or way of thinking, thanks to “unbalanced power dynamics,” says Miller. “The only thing that a child can do is maintain their boundaries, because though it’s very unlikely for a child to change their parent’s belief system, having personal boundaries will allow them greater autonomy to challenge the truths their parents may have otherwise pushed onto them. ”
Aim to approach these conversations as respectfully and calmly as possible, Miller suggests. The more levelheaded you are, the better you’ll feel after, even if the person you’re speaking to doesn’t respond well. (Although hopefully, earnestly explaining how their actions and words affect you will result in them understanding where you’re coming from and working to change, since most loved ones don’t want to hurt you.)
Humor helps, too. This is one reason the almond-mom meme has been so popular on TikTok. Laughing at an experience and realizing that you’re not the only one who’s lived through it can be incredibly empowering and help take the shame out of the equation. Their behavior is what’s ridiculous, not yours.
How to Handle Your Own Relationship With Healthy Eating
Everyone’s journey with body image and healthy eating is unique, but positive self-talk is crucial, says Miller. It’s hard not to internalize the words and opinions of the people around us, especially if they’re a parent or someone else in a position of authority over us when we’re young. But you know what’s healthy for you, and you can combat negative messages about weight, eating, or exercise by reminding yourself that what you’re being told isn’t true and repeating affirming phrases to yourself instead.
Another great option is to work with a registered dietitian or nutritionist. “Knowledge is power, and I highly recommend that anyone who is struggling with their body image or an almond mom go to a nutritionist to really get the facts,” Miller says. An expert will help guide you on your body’s individual needs and teach you the truth about healthy eating habits. (That said, some nutritionists preach unhealthy myths about food and nutrition, so be sure to carefully vet your options before making a selection.)
Finally, Miller suggests working to approach food and fitness as neutrally as possible. Try to pay attention to when you “label” foods as good or bad, and challenge those labels as arbitrary. Cookies are not inherently bad, and carrots are not inherently good. Instead, recognize how foods make you feel and find what fuels your body, because at the end of the day, you know what’s best for you.