Except for a few of you genetic freaks out there, be honest. Who wants to hit the gym at 5:00am instead of hitting the snooze button? Who wants to brainwash themselves into thinking that kale really does taste better than a warm, gooey cinnamon roll? Trying to lose weight is hard (and even harder when all you want to do is stress eat because the weather is colder and oh yeah, there’s that GLOBAL PANDEMIC). And then even if you do work tirelessly for months to change your eating and exercise habits, sometimes those last few pounds refuse to budge. Wouldn’t it be great if you could drink something that would not only help you lose weight, but detox your system and give you tons of energy? Of course it would be! But unfortunately we live in the real world, where Louboutins don’t grow on trees and skinny teas have consequences. CELEB spills the tea on this popular diet fad.
What is Detox Tea?
As the name implies, detox teas claim to cleanse the body of toxins or “flush” impurities from your system while reducing inflammation and free-radical damage. That’s a tall order for a little cup of tea. There are dozens of varieties and some popular ingredients include vitamin C, lemon, mint, dandelion, ginger, and milk thistle. The FDA does not regulate these teas, and there is little clinical research to prove they work as detoxifiers. Some doctors and medical experts claim that herbs, food, and vitamins may have some benefits but cannot actually pull any toxins from your system. They maintain that only the human liver and kidneys can do this. But other doctors and health experts, especially naturopathic ones, argue that the individual ingredients in such teas have been used to improve human health for hundreds of years and are generally safe and effective.
Detox/Weight Loss Tea A.K.A Skinny Teas
Many popular detox teas are also marketed as weight loss teas. These “skinny” teas contain ingredients that companies claim will help you lose weight and obtain a flatter stomach. For weight loss, caffeine is often a main ingredient, as stimulants have shown to “boost your metabolism in the short term.” Other ingredients used in these teas have diuretic or laxative properties, meaning you will, um, go both #1 and #2 more often, which could potentially lead to losing water weight. To control cravings, skinny teas use herbs and spices like peppermint and cinnamon. And to reduce bloating, fennel, hibiscus, and chamomile are popular.
Skinny tea, weight loss tea, detox tea – whatever you call them, the market for these drinks has exploded in the past 5 years. And celebrity endorsements are undoubtedly the reason behind the increased popularity. Stars like Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Amber Rose, Hilary Duff, Iggy Azalea, Britney Spears, and Cardi B have all endorsed weight loss teas. The advertisements are usually the same – looking totally flawless, the celebrity will pose with the product on Instagram and after the obligatory hashtag “ad,” the celebrity will gush about how the tea helped them to lose weight, curb cravings, and beat bloat. Usually these posts will also mention special savings codes to use when purchasing your tea. Skinny tea companies pay celebrities and influencers major cash for these endorsements because they know it will pay off with thousands of new costumers.
Do They Actually Work?
Yes and no. But mostly no. You’ll notice that all of the tea companies tell you to diet and exercise to lose weight – and that their product is only a complementary part of your weight loss journey. So if you are eating healthier, counting calories, exercising, drinking skinny tea and you are losing weight- spoiler alert: it ain’t the tea. And yes technically the diuretic and laxative effects of these teas can help you to lose a few pounds – but that’s in water weight only (that your body will soon gain back anyway). Caffeine and other stimulants do speed up your metabolism but here’s the thing – it’s not enough to result in any significant weight loss. A meta-analysis showed that “caffeine alone increased calorie burn by about 1 calorie per mg of caffeine, up to roughly 100 calories per day. That’s about the calories in an egg and a half, or 1 tbsp. of butter. It’s just not that much food.”
Are They Safe?
Again, mostly no – as in, drinking a cup or two may not hurt, but prolonged use of these teas (like the companies recommend) can cause nasty side effects and harm your body. First, the high level of caffeine can cause issues like anxiety, high blood pressure, and rapid heart rate. It can also wreak havoc on your digestion. Per Healthline, “Detox teas commonly cause abdominal pain and discomfort. Cramps, bloating, gas, and nausea are also common. . .The high levels of caffeine and laxative ingredients usually cause these symptoms, as they put stress on the digestive system.” And while too much caffeine can cause these stomach upsets, the herb senna (a popular herbal laxative added to the tea) is even more concerning. The U.S. National Library of Medicine recommends “Don’t use senna for more than two weeks. Longer use can cause the bowels to stop functioning normally and might cause dependence on laxatives. Long-term use can also change the amount or balance of some chemicals in the blood (electrolytes) that can cause heart function disorders, muscle weakness, liver damage, and other harmful effects.” Yikes.
Celebrities and influencers have been sharply criticized for promoting various weight loss products like detox teas. Critics argue that the tea companies are scamming customers by not telling them the truth – that any weight loss from the product is only a few pounds of water weight that the customer will gain back anyway. More importantly? Drinking these skinny teas can be downright dangerous. Even certain fans of these celebrities have been turned off by their detox tea ads. Last year when Khloe Kardashian posted an ad for Flat Tummy Co., her followers were not having it. One wrote, “How can you post ‘inspirational quotes’ literally all day long but then promote laxatives to young impressionable girls.” Another chided, “You have a daughter. Set a better example for her than shilling dangerous toxic teas. Please. You have the privilege to only pursue projects you’re passionate about. This can’t be that.” Actress Jameela Jamil has been an outspoken critic of celebrities who promote such weight loss products. She posted this hilarious video mocking celebs who endorse skinny teas and drinks, but she’s also super passionate about her cause. Jameela revealed that she was anorexic as a teenager and abused laxatives in order to emulate her favorite skinny celebrities.
Dump the Tea
Remember – celebrities have personal chefs, trainers, and plastic surgeons. It’s their job to be slender and attractive. No product will magically transform you into Kylie Jenner. And cliché be damned, you’re beautiful just as you are. So don’t waste your money or harm yourself with detox teas. If you want to be healthier, torture yourself the right way – by eating a kale salad.