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Do almond moms know their power?
TW: Disordered eating
A few weeks back, I found out about “almond moms.” For the uninitiated, almond moms are mothers who push toxic dieting on their children. The name originated with Yolanda Hadid, supermodel Gigi Hadid’s mom, who suggested her daughter chew slowly on two almonds when she was hungry.
The mother-daughter relationship is central to research on eating disorders, especially when it comes to how they’re developed and treated. It’s been documented that mothers who speak negatively about their weight in front of their female children run a higher risk of their children developing an eating disorder. It’s worth noting that eating disorders tend to run in families. To push back on that a little — I wonder just how much blame we can place on our female relatives, given that our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters have all been fed the same toxic media narrative. Most women are told subliminally, from a young age, that if they obsess over their weight, they’ll be rewarded. The generational impact is hard to avoid.
On a personal level, I feel lucky to have had a mother who practiced a pretty healthy understanding of eating, exercise, and body image. I only remember being annoyed that I had to bring healthy packed lunches to school, and I always wanted Winders (iykyk) instead of strawberries, because junk food was cool but my mum was not cool with it. But I don’t remember having scales in the house or really ever caring about how much I weighed. Admittedly, I have also always been relatively slim. Personally, I have never crash dieted or weighed myself outside of the doctor’s office. I obviously have my own body-related insecurities, but upon reflection, most of these come more as a result of wider societal beauty standards that I’ve been exposed to over the years rather than from my mum. I’m also aware that this is, unfortunately, pretty rare. When I asked Diemers the question about the impact their parents (and specifically mothers) had on their perception of diet culture, almost everyone (apart from a few stories!) replied with at least one thing they picked up from their mums that they’ve since learned is actually disordered eating and/or body dysmorphia.
Here’s a particularly powerful example:
“My mom always said her biggest fear was having fat children. I’ve always figured that’s how I would feel, too, when I decide to have children. For the longest time, I used to say: I don’t want a daughter because I don’t want her to turn out like me, i.e., depressed and constantly at battle with her body. That’s changed a bit more now and when I’m ready to have a child, I just want them to be healthy. But I am terrified that if I were to have a girl, I would return to my mom’s mentality of fearing my child would live in a larger body. My mom was very controlling when it came to both her food and mine. She was anorexic from the time she was a teen until she had me, but her challenges with food never stopped and it definitely translated to me. My mom now says I can’t blame her for my body hatred because I haven’t lived with her since I was 18. I’m 35 now. But honestly, I will always feel as if she’s responsible for my eating disorder.”
Even as a person with a relatively healthy relationship to food and exercise, I’m often still terrified by the thought of having daughters who will be impacted by our societal obsession with dieting and beauty standards given the power of current algorithms. The combination of social media and diet culture is truly horrifying when I think of being a teenage girl, as your perspective is limited anyways.
But I want to hear from you. Did your mum influence your body image positively or negatively? Are you worried about having daughters due to diet culture? Do you have a young daughter and hold these concerns? I’d love to hear anything this topic brings up for you, anonymously if you prefer, in Diem.
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What we’re reading…
The future of fertility (The New Yorker)
What we still don’t know about periods (The New Yorker)
Can we ever make peace with losing our looks? (Things Worth Knowing)
Till next time,