Promoted with sexualized imagery, these teas are geared toward women, primarily young adults.
“I went into it thinking, ‘Okay, maybe it’ll curb my appetite because I’m hungry throughout the day, and I’m eating more than I’m losing,’” recalled Carolena Realmuto, 20, who started using Tiny Tea after a friend recommended it. “I felt a little better, my stomach felt a little better, but I didn’t see any seen results or anything like that.”
Mindless quick fixes do not facilitate the consistency necessary for sustained weight management.
“We have a highly consumerist society that wants to have problems resolved quickly without a lot of effort,” explained Dr. Kristin Bayer, a women’s studies and history professor at Marist College.
The “teatox” plans are about as healthy for the wallet as the purchase of a pack of cigarettes. In terms of ingredients, the major brands list only natural, herbal elements. However, none are FDA approved. In other words, just as herbal supplement companies can include whatever they want on their labels, herbal supplement teas to promote weight loss can do the same legally.
“The teas are actually better than a lot of the weight loss supplements out there because they’re actually made of real herbs,” asserted Marist College Biology Professor Kristin Dragos, who has researched detox teas extensively. “Some of the detox teas have an ingredient called cena, and that ingredient has a laxative effect, so it leads to dehydration and electrolyte loss. It also cleans out the colon, so it will lead to weight loss, short term.”
What consumers are missing is the fact that skinny teas generally follow a regimen, which would naturally make drinkers more conscious of intake, whether it is food or liquid. Hydration is a known weight loss necessity, so it is no surprise that the consumption of teatox products would impose a decrease in weight and/or bloating upon users. Several brands also provide diet plans and exercise ideas to encourage patrons to live a healthier lifestyle.
“There’s a lot of products. Very few of them are effective at causing weight loss or leading to weight loss,” Dragos illustrated. “There’s a couple of mechanisms by which some drugs can increase metabolism. That doesn’t affect how much energy somebody’s exerting, it doesn’t affect how many calories somebody’s taking in, and also it doesn’t play into factors like genetics, age, or anything like that."
Lifelong health enthusiast Margaret Gibbons, 80, remembers the diet pill of the 1960s/1970s, liquid diets of the 1980s, and other fad diets. As she reminisced about her earliest memories of body image issues, Gibbons cited the increased news consumption of the average American in her lifetime. With that has come the amplified imagery pertaining to beauty standards: “Thin, thin, thin,” she scolded.
Read: skinny. Many diet/detox tea companies have applied that word heavily to their marketing strategies. Just like sexuality, “skinny” sells.
“The particular body image issues that we face are unique, and the focus on an unhealthily skinny female body is unique to our own time period. Even a few decades ago, women’s bodies were expected to be much larger than today,” articulated Dr. Angela Laflen, author of Confronting Visuality in Multi-Ethnic Women’s Writing. “As women attain political and social equality in so many areas today, they are simultaneously being trained that their bodies are what make them valuable. It seems like a way to control women and keep them distracted from pursuing goals more in their own self-interest.”
Body-shaming and the desire to be thin and model-like, even amidst this era of embracing curves, has ingrained in the minds of men and women alike a sort of sensitivity when it comes to body issues.
“There’s an emphasis in all of our society about focusing on something natural, even if it’s naturally not good for you,” Bayer specified. “What might’ve evolved or change would be the marketing of it. There was an emphasis on herbs recently, maybe the past five or 10 years, like fen-phen. I think that is has to do with consumerism and getting people to buy something, to pay money for something that will solve a problem that isn’t really necessarily something that can be a quick fix or solved by purchasing.”
Though Gibbons has been mindful of her weight for decades, she has never witnessed such an impulse of “health” consciousness. It used to be all about monitoring food intake and exercise accordingly.
“I eat everything I want, but I still am aware of it,” she affirmed. “You have to really be watching it all the time, careful not to let it flip.”
Weight loss is incurred by the deficit of calories through energy use. While there is validity to many instantaneous fixes, drinking tea alone without proper nutrition and exercise yields little to no effects.
“The detox tea, a lot of them are not actually detox teas at all. They claim to be, but they’re really just mixes of teas, which are just good for you,” Dragos revealed. “The good thing about the tea is there are very little negative effects associated with it, whereas everything else is sort of just like these key words and terms.”
Skinny tea companies most commonly name green tea and oolong tea mixtures in their ingredient lists. Essentially, consumers could just as easily mix their own leaves together and skip the miracle branding.
“It is just a kind of logical response to being inundated by media messages telling women they have to be skinny in order to be valuable,” Laflen stated. “These messages start so early that most women don’t remember their first exposure to them or internalizing these values.”