As summertime rolls around so do the inevitable "get fit quick" scams that plague the interwebs such as detox and tea cleanses, waist trainers, and expensive meal plans. As our Instagram Explore feeds are flooded with endless posts of sun-tanned beach goddesses, we too are flooded with the stress to look like these gorgeously toned Insta models.
Smiling, skinny, tan; when you're trapped in the library polishing off your second strawberry Pop-Tart it's hard not to be at least a little envious of the glamorous lives these posts depict.
A recent method to reaching beach body goals cropping up on the internet has been "tea cleanses." Many promise to slim you down in a matter of 7 to 28 days by simply drinking their "detox" or "cleansing" tea.
But, when you look past the transformation photos and the sassy branding, a much scarier truth lies hidden within the ingredient list, nestled between the organic and beautifying ingredients.
So, what is the big deal?
Senna, a natural medicine derived from the leaves of the senna plant, is used as a thinly veiled, all-natural laxative. Natural as it may be, the ingredient can be seen sprinkled within tea cleanse and detox recipes throughout the industry.
The logic behind the teas works as follows: by detoxifying the colon and liver through laxative use, the user will subsequently lose bloating in the stomach and, impermanent as this weight loss may be, appear slimmer. By literally expelling the contents of your bowel tract at an increased frequency, you look skinnier because you are empty.
In reality, most of what laxatives expel from your body is not that cheat meal comprised of pizza and ice cream, but fiber and necessary electrolytes and minerals that help your body work.
Simply put, the teas make you poop more so you have less hanging out in your gut, therefore you look slimmer.
Simple, right? Well, not really.
Although natural, Senna is still a laxative. Most doctors recommend using laxatives no longer than two weeks, and there's a good reason why. With a slew of side effects including electrolyte and mineral imbalance, muscle and liver damage, comes the scarier possibility of atrophy of the muscles that actually make you go to the bathroom.
With prolonged use of laxatives your body can't work by itself anymore, creating a further dependency for laxatives, usually resulting in larger and larger doses. In extreme cases this means having to be tethered to an enema for the rest of your life, unable to "go" by yourself.
With some cleanses lasting beyond 28 days, it's easy to see why these pink-packaged and sweetly-flavored teas are more dangerous than they appear.
Perhaps a grander issue lies in the sentiment behind the teas. In a world where young girls and boys are drowning in media that show them how they should look (or how they should want to look), practices like tea cleanses fall right into the norm, making their dangerous side-effects slip unnoticed among the public.
I could write a million articles on how tricks like tea cleanses, waist slimmers, fat burning pills, etc., are all lies. Or how this culture of finding tricks to appear "slim" and "skinny" support a scary and false psychology and a poorly conceived notion on what it actually means to be healthy.
So, this summer instead of chugging a tea that promises you a dream body, have a smoothie. Maybe go for a walk on the beach instead of drinking that extra margarita. Focus on being healthy and happy.
There's no quick fix for a healthful lifestyle, so don't fall for the products that promise a false reality and just try your best. And, remember, beauty is more than skin deep.