What Is an Almond Mom? The Viral Term, Explained
If you've seen this term floating around social media and other corners of the internet, you're not alone.
If you’ve been on TikTok recently, it’s highly possible you’ve seen at least one video about an “almond mom.” The ironic term has spawned hundreds of memes and videos on TikTok, in which users can joke about and process the effect of comments from their own #almondmoms.
Clearly, the “almond mom” concept is resonating with audiences: The hashtag had over 293 million views at press time. But, what exactly is an almond mom? And is the term good or bad? Let’s dive right in.
What’s an almond mom?
An almond mom is basically a parental or authority figure who has “some form of eating restriction,” according to Dr. Amy Lee, Head of Nutrition for Nucific and an expert in weight control, obesity and nutrition. Furthermore, an almond mom “believes that whatever they’re doing is superior to your diet” and, as such, they encourage their children to follow the same tenets.
In the most prominent TikTok videos, users impersonate almond moms by pretending to passive-aggressively comment on their children’s bodies, restrict portion sizes and snacking, forgo carbs, order salad dressings on the side, eat only every four to six hours, drink water instead of eating and encourage their children to go on diets.
@tyler.benderr Happy thxgiving what do u all want to see next? Lmk ⬇️ #almondmom #thanksgiving #yolandahadid ♬ Thanksgiving Theme – Vince Guaraldi Trio
Though they usually don’t have ill intent, clinical experts suggest that almond moms’ advice can be “overwhelming and confusing” to their children. Dr. Lee explains, “if [an almond mom’s advice] is interpreted in the wrong way, it affects the child’s self-image, confidence and perpetuates disordered eating.”
Dr. Lee also adds that the almond mom is usually a victim of societal diet culture themself and the nutritional beliefs of their time. When asked why she believes almond moms behave this way, she says it could be, “insecurity, ignorance, fear and a protective nature.” They may “not know where to get good information” or “not have time to do the research.” All of this results in the almond mom “bringing old beliefs to a new generation with the intention to do no harm.”
Where did the term “almond mom” come from?
The term “almond mom” first emerged on social media in response to a video of Yolanda Hadid, mother of supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid. The 2014 clip from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills resurfaced in late 2022 and shows Gigi telling her mother she is feeling “really weak” after having eaten only “half an almond.” In response, Yolanda suggests she “eat a couple of almonds and chew them really well.” Yolanda has claimed to People magazine that the comments were taken out of context.
Perhaps the most famous almond mom is Gwyneth Paltrow. In a recent video clip of Paltrow speaking with Dear Media, she outlines her daily “wellness routine.” For her, this includes intermittent fasting, coffee, bone broth, an hour of exercise, an infrared sauna and an early dinner that aligns with the Paleo diet.
@dearmedia #gwynethpaltrow shares her daily wellness routine on The Art Of Being Well, listen now 🎧 #wellnessroutine #healthandwellness #healthylifestyle #routines #goop #podcastclips ♬ Aesthetic – Tollan Kim
When I asked Dr. Lee what she thought of Gwyneth Paltrow’s diet, she described it as “an intense caloric deficit.”
“She’s very specific on her regimen and of course, she’s eating only organic and the highest-quality food—and she forgot to tell that to the public,” Dr. Lee said. “The typical person can’t really afford all that. It’s another potential for someone to misinterpret that kind of information. The moment it’s out there, there are going to be followers.”
While Paltrow never explicitly says that others should follow her “wellness routine,” her celebrity endorsement of these controversial trends gives them a stamp of legitimacy, which has angered dietitians and viewers online, who have branded her “the mother of all almond moms.”
Are almond mom behaviors really so bad?
If you’re reading this and thinking that maybe almond moms make some legitimate points, there are, of course, merits to a conscious manner of eating. After all, American obesity rates were over 41% in 2017 and, according to the CDC, obesity is tied to numerous often-deadly health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. It’s natural for parents to fear for the health of their children and against this backdrop, it may seem reasonable for a parent to tell their kid to swap their candy for a banana or reject foods rich in saturated and trans fats.
However, almond moms make a few notable mistakes in their pursuit of health, according to Dr. Lee. First off, she explains, the research behind the diet trends and fads they often proselytize (such as bone broth or SlimFast, for example), is often nonexistent: “Some of [the health trends] are true, but a lot of what you hear in mass are old wives’ tales with no actual research behind them,” Dr. Lee said.
Second, the idea of “just stopping eating” to prevent weight gain is “still a misconception.” “We forget that it’s the quality of food that makes a huge difference, not so much the quantity,” notes Dr. Lee.
Third, almond moms often express their health ideals to their children through negative reinforcement (i.e. “Stop eating that!”). This can lower self-esteem, which has a “majority correlation” with people with disordered eating, according to Dr. Lee.
Why is “almond mom advice” so powerful?
When I asked Dr. Lee why she thought that the comments from almond moms were so harmful to children, she outlined a few theories. For one, she says, it is “kind of hard to correct Mom,” because of our learned beliefs as children that “Mom knows best.” Additionally, children’s need for parental approval can contribute to their dedication to pursuing an almond mom’s advice. Dr. Lee explains that a child may think, “‘I don’t want to be the fat kid and make my mom disappointed in me, so I’ll do what I can secretly to show her I won’t be chunky.'”
And lastly, she says, “In today’s American society, we are bombarded with negative diet information.” Therefore, an almond mom’s belief can seem reasonable when they are bolstered by pervasive advertisements for trendy dietary supplements and “magic weight loss pills.” But as Dr. Lee points out, “Probably 70% of these ads have no science or research behind them. They’re just money grabs.”
So, how can I not be an almond mom?
Peter Dazeley/Getty Images
If some of the above behaviors are resonating with you, you may be wondering what to do about them. First off, know that adopting some of these behaviors is understandable—we all live in American diet culture and struggle with our body images. But now is a great time to take stock of your relationship with food and introduce some nuance. The below tips from Dr. Lee can help you lead a genuinely healthy life and encourage one for your own children.
Fact-check your intentions
According to Dr. Lee, “Mothers should be more introspective and ask themselves, ‘Are the things I tell my kids really to their best benefit?'” While they may fear that their kids could be bullied for their weight at school, oftentimes the most powerful judgment is coming from within the home.
Use reliable and current sources
There always seems to be a new “wellness trend,” from SlimFast shakes in the ’90s to current fads like the 12-3-30 workout, fitness gummies, Paleo and intermittent fasting. Therefore, it’s important to always check reliable, recent data on what is healthy and what is not.
As Dr. Lee points out, “The world becomes different, and [diet fads] that happened 30 years ago are not happening now—you yourself should evolve as well. Do research on what is realistic and healthy instead of isolating the one thought you’ve had for 30 years.”
Sugary, salty and fatty foods cause a spike of dopamine in the human brain. They are a “natural, physiological body reaction” and we all have them. (For Dr. Lee, it’s a martini; for me, it’s baked goods.) Knowing what cravings you or your child are experiencing is a great first step toward healthy eating habits. From there, try to discover what might trigger this craving and if you or your child can sit in the obsessive craving without compulsively acting on it.
Support your child’s mental health
“If you are really concerned and truly interested in helping your child, be part of their journey,” says Dr. Lee. This could be helping them find a professional psychiatrist to support them or talking with them about any underlying issues that might trigger overeating habits (ideally, both!).
As Dr. Lee points out, “How we feel during emotional imbalances oftentimes translates into needing something to calm us down.” As such, mental and emotional health is deeply intertwined with nutrition and body weight.
Build a team of trusted professionals
Because mental health is such a key part of understanding weight fluctuations, Dr. Lee suggests patients see a psychologist and psychiatrist, as well as a nutritionist and primary care provider, to get to the root of the issue. She explains that patients experiencing disordered eating have an internal “infrastructure” that needs to be holistically addressed in order to progress.
Practice patience and consistency
Finally, Dr. Lee stresses the importance of long-term dedication. “Treatment takes time. I can’t fix you overnight and you can’t just take a pill to resolve these issues,” she said. Real change “requires talk therapy, self-awareness on a daily basis and consistency. It’s a lifelong journey.”
But as a patient begins to make these daily steps, Dr. Lee says that they will “feel empowered and have authority over their life, not out of control.” And with that sense of accomplishment and that daily perseverance comes a higher probability of keeping the weight off for good.