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The #teatox effect

It might have filled your Instagram feed but that doesn't mean you should fill your tea cup, writes Tijan Biner.

There’s a health trend that promises you’ll shed kilos within weeks by drinking nothing but cups of tea. What’s there to lose?

A lot more than a few kilograms, it seems.

“Teatoxing” is a weight loss craze with advertised benefits including increased energy levels, healthy skin and the ability to drop a dress size in record time.

SkinnyMe Tea is one of numerous brands supplying Instagram-famous weight loss tea. The Melbourne-based online business describes itself as a ‘100 per cent natural health supplements company’.

The “specially blended” teas are sold online and accompanied by eating and exercise plans, but customers could unknowingly be doing more harm to their health than good.

SkinnyMe Tea’s “colon cleanse” tea has generated the most concern, containing a laxative called senna.

Katherine Bagleh, an accredited practicing dietitian, tells upstart that prolonged laxative use could cause extreme stomach pain, diarrhea, cramps and electrolyte imbalances.

“Reliance on any laxatives, including senna, are dangerous for a number of reasons, especially if you use it for longer periods where the body can become dependent on it and, as such, the bowels will no longer function properly on their own,” Ms Bagleh says.

SkinnyMe Tea had their Instagram account deactivated in 2013 after one customer was hospitalised while on the detox. An Instagram spokesperson said SkinnyMe Tea had directly violated the site’s guidelines.

“While Instagram is a place where people can share their lives with others through photographs, it does not condone the promotion or glorification of self-harm,” the spokesperson said.

Despite losing over 200,000 followers last year, the company has since started a new account and gained an even bigger following.

SkinnyMe Tea run an intense social media campaign and post “before” and “after” photos from participants of their detox diet, helping to secure future and continuing customers.


“Brainwashing people into an abnormal way of thinking that they feel guilty immediately after eating is a damaging way of thinking, that can lead to longer term disordered eating patterns. This is self harm,” Ms Bagleh says.

From local fitness gurus to international models, celebrity ambassadors have also taken to social media to promote the trend by posting images of their alleged teatox journeys.

With young girls already vulnerable to the pressures of looking like their celebrity role model, some dieticians worry it will go too far.

“Any celebrity endorsement affects all individuals. Put a celebrity on a packet of dog food, and people are bound to try it,” Ms Bagleh says.

“Teenagers feel that skinny is sexy, and that by having lumps and bumps makes that fat, disgusting and unattractive. This is a mindset that we, as dieticians, are working so hard to change.”


SkinnyMe Tea Founder Gretta Van Riel told Cosmopolitan that, if used correctly, there shouldn’t be any negative side effects to the tea.

“Unlike other teatox companies, we direct our customers to use the teas every second night so that the body doesn’t become reliant on them, and we warn against their long-term use,” she said.

Katherine Bagleh’s advice is to steer clear of fad diets altogether, claiming there is no “magic bullet” to leading an active and healthy lifestyle.

“There is insufficient data from human clinical trials to support the effectiveness of cleanses made of natural or herbal products, so the use is not recommended,” Ms Bagleh says.

“It is important to look at the diet as a whole, rather than individual foods or drinks for successful and sustainable weight loss.”

So keep scrolling through your Instagram feed and pour yourself an Earl Grey instead.

You’ll thank me later.


Tijan Biner

Tijan Biner is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on Twitter: @tijanb.


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