I say this almost tongue in cheek (but not quite), but I feel like my generation’s moms do have the “almond moms” beat for possibly well-meaning, but extremely harmful practices that are rooted squarely in weight stigma. After reading a lot about “almond” moms, and then talking to people my age, I was aghast at both sets of moms and how harmful they could be to their children. My own mother even passed on a lot of internalized weight stigma with some of the things she did, but it was tame compared to some of the stories I’ve heard from friends. It still harmed me and set me up for a lifetime of disordered eating and internalized body shaming, among other physical and mental health issues, but it was mild, in comparison.
Read on if you’d like to learn a little more about what the term “almond mom” is referring to (if you don’t already know) and to hear some stories from my generation, too. I think all of these things are important in order to expose how well-meaning mothers have harmed and continue to harm their children through weight stigma. It’s important to expose it because that’s the only way we can begin to correct it in our society.
What Are “Almond Moms”?
Generally speaking, the term “almond mom” is just a current term for a parent who creates an environment of weight stigma and disordered eating for their children in the guise of supposed “health and wellness” related practices with their children. These practices are often actually harmful dieting protocols and misinformation about food and how our bodies relate to food. All with a big dose of body shaming and other psychological damage.
An article on Katie Couric’s website explains how the term got coined:
The term “almond mom” first emerged in the fall of 2022, when 2014 footage of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Yolanda Hadid resurfaced. In the clip, Hadid’s daughter, Gigi, complains about “feeling really weak” after eating only “half an almond.”
Yolanda’s response? “Have a couple of almonds and chew them really well.”
Katie Couric Media, “Are You an Almond Mom? How Your Snack Suggestions Could Harm Your Family”
The link to the TikTok video in the quote above shows the clip of the show, and then commentary by an anti-diet nutritionist. It’s worth the watch if you have a moment.
In any case, you can see that passing on eating and dieting habits like only eating a few almonds as a meal (or even a snack) and having to “chew them really well” as a way to somehow stave off the weakness you feel due to lack of food is probably not great for children’s growing bodies or minds.
“Almond Moms” has generally become the catch-all term for mothers who themselves are habitual dieters, worship at the altar of thinness, and are consumed by diet culture and popular beliefs around weight and beauty standards. And they pass all of that on to their own children. In our culture, weight bias, fat-phobia, and the “thinness at any cost” mindset have been so internalized by most of us that the “Almond Moms” really are victims of diet culture themselves. Even as they more or less unwittingly victimize their own children.
Media, including reality TV and social media, and the “war on ob*sity” that we’ve been waging in this culture for some time now, is creating a whole new generation’s weight stigma, body shame, body dysmorphia, and disordered eating (including life-threatening eating disorders). But then again, you can see that this stuff has been prevalent in our culture for a very long time. It’s been passed down, generation to generation.
Moms of Gen Xers
I’m from Gen X. So, a lot of my first-hand knowledge of the weight stigma and body shame we were programmed with comes from my own experience and that of some of my peers. I actually really don’t know if my mom or the moms of my peers were actually worse than any that came after them (or even before them) but some of the stories I’ve heard have made my blood boil. Even some of the things I learned, from my mother and lots of other sources kind of makes my blood boil, when I think of these things now.
Fad diets aren’t new and weren’t new in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. Moms today probably still pass on their dieting habits to their children through whatever the current fads are. Moms of Gen Xers certainly demonstrated to their children (especially their female children) that following fad diets was a positive thing, especially if it spared them the ridicule and shame of walking around in a fat body. I often learned about the various fad diets of the day from my peers who were on them because their mothers thought it was a good thing to do.
Some of the fad diets of the 80s that I was aware of at the time included the Cabbage Soup Diet, the Grapefruit Diet, The Scarsdale Diet, Liquid Diets (which were extreme calorie restriction diets), and liberal use of appetite suppressants. Jenny Craig first came on the scene in the 80s and there were various low-calorie and specific “food combining” diets. It seemed like a new one popped up monthly! Also, aerobics became popular in the 80s, and a lot of mothers of Gen Xers got into extreme exercise and took their daughters (and sometimes their sons) right along with them.
Many of my peers had parents that were from the Baby Boomer generation, and they had lived through their own versions of fad diets, and they, as a generation were very liberally exposed to appetite suppressants and amphetamines to lose weight. My mother was a bit older. Of course, there were fad diets from her day, but somehow, the extreme drive to be thin hadn’t really caught on with her. She was concerned with appearance, and as a general rule, didn’t want me to become fat, but she was never into popular culture like models and actresses who were praised for their thinness.
My mother approached me around puberty to go on a diet with her. I wasn’t particularly overweight at the time, but I do have a little bit larger frame than many of my peers. As I started getting hips (a normal part of puberty), I think my mother got concerned that I was putting on weight and getting fat. The diet she started us on was from a book from Weight Watchers that advocated eating in “blocks.” Different kinds of foods (like protein, carbs, etc) had different “block” values and according to the diet, you were allowed a certain number of “blocks” per day. I’m going from memory here, and not from the sourcebook, but I think I remember that you could have whatever you wanted from the different “blocks” up to your “block limit” for the day.
I know Weight Watchers has gone through many iterations over the years (and now they just want to be called WW), but I think they all essentially boil down to calorie restriction. I guess I feel lucky that my mother didn’t sign us up for Weight Watchers, and only got the diet from a book. I think it would have been extra humiliating to have to weigh myself in front of so many others.
My mother pretty much stopped there, with me. At least as far as pushing diets. For the rest of my life that she was alive for, she did push me to perhaps eat better and exercise more. She once paid for me to see a nutritionist that advocated the “Zone Diet” which I followed pretty religiously for the next couple of years.
I’ve been fat most of my adult life, and she was worried for me. I feel it was genuine love that set her to worry. But it still was unfortunate for me, because ultimately, I also spent my teenage and adult years (up to very recently), yo-yo dieting, following fad diets, hating my body, cultivating disordered eating and body dysmorphia, and ultimately creating health problems because of all of that. I even started smoking regularly because I had heard it was a good way to lose weight. I am left now to deal with the physical and mental health ramifications of all of that dieting and other bad weight-related decisions.
Mothers of My Gen Xer Friends
I’ve heard some horrifying true stories from people I know, in real life. Even though I think, ultimately, the outcomes for many of the people I know are not much different than my own, I still feel lucky that my mom was as limited as she was with the weight stigma and body shame that she passed on to me. I do think that I was very susceptible to falling for a lot of the fad diets my friends went on, and ones I found myself down the road, because of my start with calorie restriction with my mother, in the end, they were choices I made, not ones my mother made for me.
I have one friend whose mother is still weight obsessed with her, even to this day. She is quite frequently having to endure her mother telling her that she needs to lose weight. Her mother is ultra-thin (she’s also elderly) and she is an extremely picky eater. But she pushes things like Jenny Craig and other dieting options on her all of the time. For her, all of this started early. Like around age 8 when her mother would stick diet pills in her hamburger, and other horrors like that. I’ve known more than one person whose mother started them on diet pills quite early.
I had a friend, who was always a bigger-bodied person, whose mother pushed her to have weight loss surgery, as soon as they would do it for her. That friend had an early iteration of weight loss surgery, early in her adulthood. She had complications and can no longer digest certain foods, at all. She has had to go through her entire adult life living with these health problems. I’ve lost touch with this friend over the years, but I often wonder, if she is still thin, and if she thinks a lifetime of digestion and other health issues was worth the trade-off.
In high school, I knew a girl whose parents took her to a doctor that agreed to wire her jaw shut in order to lose weight. I know that in the 70s and 80s, this was something that doctors would do for people to “help” them to lose weight. They would wire their jaws shut for up to a year! I don’t know how common it was for teenagers to undergo this procedure, but I did know one that had it done. Talk about cultivating an eating disorder!
So, Which Generation is Worse?
In the end, as I said above, I’m not sure one generation is worse than the other. It’s actually not a competition. I think feeding your child prescription diet drugs at 8 years old, or having your daughter’s jaw wired shut because she was fat is pretty dang disgusting and bad. But I honestly don’t know if it is worse than encouraging your child to subsist on a couple of almonds for the day, in the name of the pursuit of thinness. It’s all bad, in my book.
When are we going to stop creating people with self-hatred, body dysmorphia, body shame, disordered eating, and life-threatening mental and physical health disorders, all in the name of whatever is seen as the “perfect” body of the moment? Most mothers would tell you that they don’t want to damage their children, but somehow they still don’t see that diet culture, fat-phobia, and weight stigma are extremely damaging. They still promote it, by following and contributing to all of it themselves, and passing it on to their own children. We have to find a way to stop the generational cycle. We need to actively choose to put an end to all of this nonsense.