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Almond moms and the harsh reality of generational disordered eating

By Avery Sharpe, February 3 2022

Every few months, TikTok seems to stir up a new viral video that makes the Internet go crazy. Most recently, the “almond mom” phenomenon has taken the app by storm, with the phrase being based on an old 2014 television clip from the show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. In the clip, TV personality Yolanda Hadid encourages her daughter and model, Gig Hadid, to eat only a few almonds when Gigi says she feels “really weak” from already being placed on such a restrictive diet. The recirculation of the moment caused many TikTok users to reflect on their own experiences with so-called almond moms, who promoted unhealthy eating behaviours in their young daughters. 

When hearing these terrible stories, it may be easy to believe that the almond moms of today are simply narcissistic and mean, but in fact, they too are victims of generational disordered eating. Many present-day moms grew up in the toxic food culture of the 1980s, which is notorious for fad diets and an enormous emphasis on weight loss. Subtle messages in the media or comments from parents can have a huge impact on a child’s self-esteem and view of the world, and a constant focus on body size and dieting is an ingrained behaviour that often stays with someone their entire life. Considering this, the concept of almond moms is not a new concept, but a decades-old problem that is perpetrated by every generation.

Today, fad diets are rampant all over the Internet. These diets will tell you to eat no sugar, only eat meat, or drink some gross tea that will have you losing 10 pounds in 10 days. However, these attempts to lose weight didn’t start in the past 50 years as you may assume. Generational disordered eating goes all the way back to the times of William the Conqueror, who went on a liquid diet in 1066 A.D. when he was unable to mount his horse. These drastic attempts to lose weight continued over the centuries, all the way up to our present day. Now, millennials and Gen Xers are suffering the consequences of the 1980s and 90s, which demonized dietary fat, advertised weight loss pills, and encouraged using devices like the ThighMaster to achieve the “perfect” body.

However, this could be a trend that is snuffed out by the newest victims of almond mom behaviour. The viral video on TikTok has opened up many conversations amongst its users and brought awareness to the dangerous ideas western society has about women’s bodies and food habits. Hundreds of videos now exist on the app that condemn diet culture, almond mom behaviour, and the weight loss industry — with more being made every day. The surge of these educational and awareness-raising videos displays a possible change in thinking for the newest generations, who are able to connect and find support to resist these dangerous habits through social media.

Unfortunately, despite this positive trend, generational disordered eating won’t be snuffed out by one app alone. The problem is systemic, and the weight loss industry is expected to jump from approximately $377 billion in 2021 to $481 billion in 2026. Although there is now greater knowledge about the dangers of dieting, many weight loss companies have rebranded themselves to promote health, wellness and clean eating. All of these phrases may sound harmless, but they actually still destroy our innate human ability to eat intuitively. Claiming foods as “good” or “bad” and “clean” or “dirty,” is just as restrictive as any named diet and creates a scarcity mentality that can even manifest into an eating disorder. 

So, while the almond mom trend on TikTok may seem to be an innocent laugh at obsessive mothers, it is actually a serious topic that deserves discussion and reflection. Body image and eating problems are no joke, and diet culture is an issue that will continue to grow if our society doesn’t make some substantial changes. Luckily, everyone can be a part of that change. Examining your relationship with food, understanding the deadly nature of eating disorders, and working towards an intuitive approach to food are all things that any person can do to ensure the next generation doesn’t have to grow up with an almond mom.

This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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