How the 'almond mom' trend is sparking conversations about the impact of diet culture
When Tyler Bender began making TikTok videos spoofing the behaviors and axioms of so-called "almond moms," she never thought it would become a viral trend sparking conversations about the impact of diet culture on women and girls.
"An almond mom is a mom who is a little bit bought into diet culture. A little bit of an obsession with healthy eating, with her body image, with her daughter's body image. Maybe a little bit of an obsession with fitness. But it tends to veer on the side of overdoing it," Bender said on "Impact x Nightline."
The "almond mom" hashtag took off on TikTok last year after a 10-year-old clip from "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" resurfaced, featuring a young Gigi Hadid telling her mom Yolanda on the phone she was "feeling really weak" after eating an almond.
"Have a couple of almonds and chew them really well," Yolanda replied.
Yolanda Hadid later told People magazine that the clip was taken out of context, calling it "such a silly narrative that is out there, that has nothing to do with the reality of our lives." She even joined in on the joke with her own TikTok showing her eating an almond.
Still, the videos keep coming. The "almond mom" hashtag now has over 300 million views, with many commenting on the societal pressure to be and stay thin at any cost.
"I think any conversation, including the almond mom conversation, helps progress in some way. And if we can get in those rooms where there are individuals who have never heard that diet culture is toxic, it's a win," model Iskra Lawrence said who encourages women to embrace their figures.
For registered dietician and nutritionist Maya Feller, diet culture is about restriction and shame, "mixed in with this hierarchy and morality around the act of having thinness, engaging in eating the right thing and then following through on it," she said. The "almond mom" trend shows how the issue affects families, particularly moms and their daughters, Feller added.
"If the woman figure in the home is engaged in this restrictive eating, it's more likely, and this is according to all the studies, that the daughter or female identifying child is going to engage in similar behavior as that parent," Feller said.
Nearly 30 million Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
MORE: What the 'almond mom' trend on TikTok says about parenting and diet culture
Tyler Bender's own mother, Sara, says while she doesn't consider herself to be an "almond mom," she does see some of her own behaviors reflected in her daughter's videos. They've also sparked some difficult conversations between mother and daughter, who says she has struggled with body image and food since middle school. Tyler and Sara say the videos have helped them both look within and examine their relationships with food and body image.
"I think the only time it's stung a little bit is when [Tyler] made mention of things that actually hurt her that I said that I didn't know hurt her. That was never my intent. You want them to be healthy and happy, and you just provide the pathway that you think is the best," Sara said.
Meanwhile, according to supermodel Emme, one of the first and most successful plus-size models, society's obsession with thinness has created a very narrow definition of what it means to be beautiful. Emme says that she is among millions of women who have been pushing back against that very notion.
"I do believe that has changed a lot," Emme said.
Emme was Revlon's first plus-size model and went on to have her own clothing line at QVC, but didn't walk in New York Fashion Week until 2017 at the age of 54.
MORE: Increased social media use linked to development of eating disorders, research shows
"There is a fear that…having a woman, a larger bodied model on a runway would diminish the work and the reflection of who their customer is, which perhaps that could be true. But what they're not seeing, it's very short-sighted, is the whole swatch of other women that are out there that get excited and really would love to be a customer of theirs," Emme said.
Emme has beamed with pride watching the growing number of celebrities embrace body positivity like Lizzo and Ashley Graham.
"Every soul's body is important, no matter what size it is. It is an absolute right for me to feel good in my body," Emme said.
Fitness guru Jillian Michaels said that there were good and bad components to the body positive movement.
"Body positivity should really be at the heart of anyone's positive transformation and health journey 'cause it has to start with self love. Now, where body positivity has the potential to become detrimental is the, "Nah, girl. You're good." And that's when you're robbing people of their untapped potential," she said.
Michaels, a mom of two, says restriction typically doesn't work for kids.
"I think that you have to role model wellness for them," she said. "But at some point they gotta make their own mistakes and learn their lessons their way."
As for Tyler Bender, she's still churning out the "viral almond mom" videos with the hope that they make a difference and bring awareness to the issue.
"I would love to see more women move toward just feeling good about themselves. Not wasting time looking in the mirror every day, and hopefully it repairs some people's relationships with themselves, their mothers, their relationships with diets, all of the above," Bender said.
The new episode of "Impact x Nightline" is now streaming on Hulu.
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