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Young women on TikTok want the next generation to avoid becoming ‘almond moms’

Some experts liken the term “almond moms” to those who have orthorexia, or an obsession with proper or “healthful’ eating.”
Photo illustration of Yolanda and Gigi Hadid and scattered almonds.
In a now-viral 2014 television clip, Yolanda Hadid tells her daughter, Gigi, to eat a few almonds after Gigi said she felt "really weak."Chelsea Stahl / NBC News; Getty Images

Some young women are changing the way they talk about food and their body image after seeing the discussion surrounding so-called almond moms on TikTok.

The term “almond mom” began trending on TikTok last month after a 2014 clip of former “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” cast member Yolanda Hadid went viral. In it, she tells daughter, Gigi Hadid, who was a teen at the time, to “have a couple of almonds, and chew them really well.” The recommendation was made in response to Gigi, who is a model, saying she felt “really weak.” 

Neither Hadid immediately responded to a request for comment. But Yolanda Hadid addressed the virality of what she described as a “small little clip from ‘Housewives’” in an October interview with People, saying it’s been taken out of context. “It’s such a silly narrative that is out there, that has nothing to do with the reality of our lives,” she said. Hadid also posted a video on Sept. 29 to TikTok of herself eating a bowl of almonds.

Many on TikTok have used the clip as a catalyst to share their own experiences with their mothers and diet culture in hopes of breaking the cycle of unhealthy beauty standards for the next generation. The hashtag “#AlmondMom” had more than 6.1 million views on the platform as of Friday. 

“Seeing her fixation on her body made me feel like I should be fixated on my body,” TikTok creator Carly Koemptgen said, referring to her own mother.

Koemptgen, 25, recently posted a video showing off the “almond mom” snacks at her mom’s house. The snacks included items such as crackers and organic mini jerky. 

“But this is not just exclusive to my mother,” Koemptgen said. “Her mother suffered from the diet culture of her time, and then her mother. It’s way bigger than just me and my mom.”

In another video, one creator, who did not respond to a request for comment, and her friend confronted two “almond moms.” The two recited “all the toxic mantras our almond moms live by.” The phrases they quote in the video include: “A moment on the lips, forever on the hips” and “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” 

Some experts who spoke with NBC News likened the term “almond moms” to those who have orthorexia, or an obsession with proper or "healthful" eating, according to the National Eating Disorders’ website

Research shows that the way parents speak about their bodies in front of their children has a massive impact on the way young people view their own bodies. A 2015 study from Common Sense Media reported that children 5 to 8 years old “who think their moms are dissatisfied with their body are more likely to feel dissatisfied with their own bodies.”

Some sociologists noted that the desire for thinness has long been rooted in diet culture’s historical entanglement with racism.

“The last 40 years of eating disorder research are filled with primarily white young women with disordered eating and also filled with the influences of their families on that disordered eating,” said Natalie Ingraham, an assistant professor of sociology at California State University East Bay. 

Carla A. Pfeffer, an associate professor in the school of social work at Michigan State University, said some of the criticism of “almond moms” is rooted in misogyny and a culture that places the burden of childcare almost exclusively on women. She called “almond moms” a scapegoat of diet culture, but not the cause. 

Today, mothers must contend with messaging in the media that not only is thinness equated with goodness, but thin children are equated with good parenting, said Jessica Wilson, a dietitian and author of “It’s Always Been Ours: Rewriting the Story of Black Women’s Bodies.”

“Whether or not you’re a good parent depends on the size of your child,” Wilson said.

Many creators who are speaking out are hoping the next generation reframes the way they speak about health. They are making little changes to how they approach conversations surrounding fitness and food.

“I definitely feel like my friends are more attentive to not policing food and having more self-acceptance,” Koemptgen said. 

The “almond mom” discourse on TikTok made creator Tyler Bender realize just how challenging it can be to avoid talking about her feelings about her own body in front of her youngest sister, who is 10. She started posting videos parodying her “almond mom” on TikTok, which she said has served as what she described as “sarcasm therapy.”

In one of her most popular videos, which has amassed more than 2.5 million views, she plays an exaggerated version of her mother. She asks a question that many with “almond moms” are familiar with: “Are you really hungry or are you just bored?” Bender then shows off protein bars, calling them “literal chocolate bars,” and declares peanut butter is banned from the house because “your dad is getting fat.” 

I really hope people see these and say, ‘OK, this is what I’m not going to do to my daughter'

-TikTok creator Tyler Bender on her videos about 'almond moms'

“I really hope people see these and say, ‘OK, this is what I’m not going to do to my daughter,'” Bender, 20, said. “‘This is what I’m not going to act like because I’ve seen how ridiculous this is.”

For years, Bender said she would get upset if she ate certain foods, like a bagel. Now, she’s spent “so much time and energy into unlearning.” As a result, she said her new favorite thing to do every weekend is get a bagel from Einstein Bros. Bagels. 

Bender said she’s now trying to avoid topics like whether or not her jeans fit or what she’s eating. She and her mom are working together to unlearn some of the behaviors from their respective childhoods.

“I take ownership for her, just as a mother would take ownership for her daughter, so I’m practicing not being an ‘almond mom’ to her,” Bender said of conversations with her sister. “And I’m helping my mom to not be an ‘almond mom’ to her as well.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, contact The National Eating Disorders Association at 1-800-931-2237 during select hours, text NEDA to 741741 at any hour in a crisis, or visit NEDA’s website.