Wellness bloggers, fitness models, and buzzy athletes all have huge followings on Instagram, but there’s another power player you probably haven’t considered yet that wields huge influence in the #fitspo space: Detox tea companies.
With catchy names like “SkinnyMe Tea” and “TeaTox,” these brands promise to offer dramatic weight loss—and hundreds of thousands of Instagram users are huge supporters. Australian company SkinnyMe Tea has more than 380,000 followers, British alternative BooTea has nearly half a million, and Skinny Fox Detox in the U.S. has 500,000 followers. There are countless before and after pictures on Instagram under the hashtag #teatox show twenty-somethings with toned, flat abs and drastically transformed physiques—the perfect conditions for an Instagram #fitspo trend. Case in point:
Here’s how the cleanses work: As an example, the SkinnyMe Detox (a particularly popular program) asks you to fork out $56. Then, you’re prompted to pick a type of diet to follow from hashtag-friendly options like alkaline, vegan, Paleo, and vegetarian, and then select an exercise level. You will be delivered two teas to be drunk morning and night, a diet plan, and workout ideas, all engineered to help you lose weight—and judging by the progress photos on Instagram, shedding pounds on this diet is exactly what you’ll do.
Another popular teatox which has over one million customers, Bootea, operates in a similar way, recommending followers use their eating plan in addition to drinking the detox tea morning and night for 14 days.
While both these companies deserve props for also pointing out that you need to follow a meal plan in addition to drinking their morning and evening tea blends, there’s still an insane amount of hysteria on Instagram about tea’s ability to transform your body—but it’s important to understand the limited role that the actual tea plays when it comes losing weight. Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN cleared up some misconceptions driving the craze, explaining that downing a few cups of tea each day won’t make you lose large amounts of weight long-term, and driving home that yes, it takes a combination of diet and exercise to lose fat. Period.
“The effect of detox tea on weight depends on many factors including ingredients, how much you’re consuming, and most importantly the rest of your diet and lifestyle. One or two cups only of tea detoxes without making other lifestyle changes is unlikely to cause a woman to shed significant weight,” she said.
Although drinking a bit of herbal tea and waking up with a figure like Gisele sounds appealing, there’s a reason why people see their stomach look visibly flatter after sipping on detox teas—they contain diuretic agents and laxatives, that, while they can certainly help with bloating, aren’t the key to totally transforming your body. If you take a look at the ingredients listed in many of the evening detox tea blends, you’ll notice they contain senna leaves and psyllium husk, a natural laxative, while the morning teas contain caffeine.
Gassman also explained that even if detox teas aren’t a miracle weight loss agent, there are other (less drastic) benefits you can experience: “Drinking tea alone won’t drastically change your weight. Although I am a huge advocate of tea for antioxidant benefits. Many teas also help flush you out by acting as a diuretic and that can help you lose water weight. It’s definitely an exaggeration when some companies claim that tea detox can change your body.”
Instead of paying a premium for leaves with the “detox tea” label, you could just get back to basics and drink classic (and cheap) green tea, which has been proven to boost your metabolism and aid weight loss.
“Many tea detoxes are based on the presence of catechins and caffeine as found in green tea. Research does show that green tea may increase energy expenditure significantly and fat oxidation. It’s been linked with a reduced BMI, body weight, and waist circumference. As much as I am a green tea lover it is more for it’s other health benefits than these small weight loss benefits, that’s just a small bonus,” explained Glassman.