Proud2Bme | Diet Culture, Stay Out of My Tea

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Diet Culture, Stay Out of My Tea

By Traci Ayub--My mental health necessities include medication, therapy, meditation, exercise, and tea. Drinking herbal tea every day (my favorite is chamomile, but I have an entire cabinet of different teas to choose from) has been a crucial part of my recovery from disordered eating and mental illness. This nightly ritual gives me an opportunity to relax, reflect, and fuel my body. After staying with me and drinking tea with me each night, my friend in recovery from bulimia decided to also start the nightly tea habit. When she went to the store on her campus, she texted me that all the tea there were “skinny teas” and she couldn’t find any regular tea. We were both livid.

These “detox” or “skinny” teas really rub me the wrong way. They take something that has offered me comfort in my self love journey and make them dangerous, particularly for those in recovery.

For those who may have not seen these teas on the market before, these teas are sold online and at the store as “skinny” teas or “fit teas.” They are frequently advertised on Instagram by exercise gurus or high-end celebrities, many of whom are paid to endorse them. These teas are marketed stating they use “natural ingredients” to “cleanse your body of toxins” or “get rid of bloating.” In reality, these teas typically use a mixture of caffeine, a diuretic, and senna leaf, a laxative, in order to aid temporary weight loss. These teas, just as any laxative pill, are an ugly part of diet culture aiming to use the naturalistic fallacy to still push body shame on people for bodies responding naturally to food. There is no place for these teas in eating disorder recovery, or in any definition of “self love.”

The body does not need a “cleanse” of toxins. The liver and kidneys do a great job of detoxing the body. Next, much of the hype around detox teas come from their ability to get rid of bloating. To some extent, bloat is unavoidable; it is part of the digestion process, for many is a typical symptom during menstruation, and especially in eating disorder recovery, additional bloating is normal in refeeding. Bloating happens to everybody, but if you’re having uncomfortable bloating, there are more effective ways to cope. Bloating is typically caused by excess gas or water retention. Some ways to cope with uncomfortable bloating include being aware of your salt intake or foods that may trigger additional bloating (such as milk for those who are lactose intolerant), and seeing a doctor if you are dealing with unmanageable pain.

If you’re in recovery and looking for teas, be careful of anything marketed for weight loss. While some simply include ingredients that are known to increase metabolism, most have large amounts of caffeine or senna leaf. Any weight loss seen from these products would be temporary, and just as with any laxative, the body may become dependent on using these products for having bowel movements. Instead, look for teas that are in their pure forms, such as black, green, oolong, or white teas (traditional teas using the Camellia sinensis plant; these teas are naturally caffeinated) or herbal teas that use other plants like chamomile or mint (these teas are naturally decaffeinated). To this day, I believe that “tea time” (from an English style tea and snack to a bedtime herbal tea) can be truly medicinal and will stay part of my self care.

And to diet culture, I say: stay out of my tea. 

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

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