Not Your Cup of Tea: The issue with diet supplements and detox teas

As glamorous as the fashion industry may make fit (read: skinny) bodies seem, it is not always sequins and killer highlighter. The adverts showcasing quick-fix diet supplements will not quickly fix all the problems in your life and ensure your happiness. All they might do is temporarily help you lose some water weight and give you diarrhoea. Not so glamorous now, is it?

One of the biggest current trends advertised by celebrities – from Kylie Jenner to Vanessa Hudgens – is detox teas. While some may be harmless (and benefit-less), some contain laxatives, such as senna. Senna stimulates your colon to contract more than usual. This forces out water and waste, and while your stomach may look temporarily flatter, long-term use can be dangerous. Either way, there is no actual fat loss – unless you’re on the toilet so much, you don’t have time to eat.

Detox teas are glorified, seemingly innocent substances. There is an element of comfort associated with tea. They are naturally calming and warm up our hands. The worse they can do is burn our tongues. When mixed with laxatives, however, they can easily become dangerous drugs. Laxative teas interact with medications and even stop them from working. There are accounts of the teas suppressing the effects of the contraceptive pill, most likely because it was not absorbed properly by the body and pooped out instead. Yes, people got pregnant because they were drinking detox teas.

Extended use (for two weeks or more, that is) can lead to dependence. Individuals who abuse laxatives often experience constipation later in life because their gut becomes lazy and requires a drug to stimulate its activity. Long-term use can also cause heart function disorders, muscle weakness, liver damage, the list goes on.

As much as I’d like to, I cannot pretend that thinness has no perks. The sad truth is that thin, white bodies are in themselves privilege. This says nothing to the goodness and wonderful spirits of the many people in thin bodies, but it is important to recognise that thinness is a form of social currency. It makes life easier. It makes women more palatable. And the price we sometimes pay is stomach cramps, diarrhoea, and deep self-hatred. What a world we live in where someone simply posting a picture on social media can be accused of glorifying obesity, or a little girl is enticed to not eat dinner because she too wants to look like who she sees on TV.

Of course, it is easy to preach self-love. Exercising it is another story. I’ve been there. I’ve hated myself with a fury. I’ve stopped menstruating because I didn’t give my body the nutrients it needed. I’ve listened to my friend force herself to throw up in a toilet and another starve herself into a hospital. Wherever we are on our journey with our bodies, keep in mind that beauty or diet supplements only benefit from the very system which caused this self-loathing you carry. As you try and enjoy this holiday season, which hopefully includes eating delicious foods, remember this: detox tea may not burn fat, but as Jameela Jamil said, “it burns” –  just somewhere else.

Image Credit: ahgomaaz via Pixabay 

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