Fitspo is nothing new, but in the past few months Stephanie*, 23, a nutrition student from Noosa, noticed a new health trend emerging: diet teas. From personal trainers to models, all her favourite 'grammers were raving about the blend of herbs that promises to reduce bloating and help with weight loss.
So, inspired by the more than 20,000 posts and transformation pics with the "teatox" hashtag, she bought the two-week SkinnyMe Teatox from Melbourne's SkinnyMe Tea, one of the most popular teatox companies.
But after just 24 hours on it, she had severe stomach cramps and diarrhoea. Despite this, Stephanie stuck to the program and the symptoms eased slightly, although she still had regular diarrhoea. By the end of the week she looked leaner - but she was also tired, run-down and dehydrated. "My skin lost its glow and I just felt so lethargic I didn't want to exercise. I was looking skinnier, but after nine days I stopped because I was exhausted," she says.
Too good to be true
Nutritionist Renée Leonard-Stainton, founder of Reneenaturally.com, says this isn't an unusual response to senna, a herb that's in colon cleanser tea bags and other diet tea products. "Senna has a strong laxative effect and it can cause headaches, diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration," Leonard-Stainton explains. "In the long-term it can make the bowel reliant on this kind of stimulation to work."
While the teas can make you lose weight by dehydration and temporary metabolism changes, she explains it's unlikely to last without changes in diet and exercise. "There's nothing wrong with the products in the teatox in the short-term - but I wouldn't advise anyone to be taking them for a long period of time," she says.
In fact, the Australian Medical Association has expressed concern the company is advocating unhealthy and unrealistic weight loss, and says the tea could lead to electrolyte shortage and nutrient deficiencies. And last June, the brand's Instagram page was shut down temporarily for promoting self-harm. One customer was even hospitalised after using the tea.
But in the months since the page was reinstated, SkinnyMe Tea's gained more than 71,000 followers. And it isn't the only teatox brand trending.
Don’t overdo it…
In its defence, SkinnyMe Tea founder Gretta van Riel says the company is being proactive about the complaints and has a team dedicated to answering questions and giving advice. "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 says.
If used as directed, van Riel says the tea shouldn't produce any negative side effects. SkinnyMe Tea promotes healthy-eating plans and encourages users to make broad changes that will benefit their health.
Leonard-Stainton's concern is mostly the speed in which diet trends spread across social media. "I've seen many clients who've tried products or diets they found online that do not work long-term. The problem is they often move on to another 'miracle' product without getting the foundations right for a healthy metabolism," she says.
"Instagram is a great place for sharing health and fitness inspiration, but your body is unique so there's never going to be that 'one size fits all' way to lose weight."
Don’t trust everything you read on insta
Many popular 'grammers are paid to promote products, and don't even have to try them. Jane*, 26, a fitness model, has over 5000 followers, and works as an ambassador for a supplement company. She is sent free products so her followers can associate them with her toned body. "I like and use the products, but I don't have to try them or offer any health advice," she says. "It makes me question other reviews."
Have you tried "teatoxing"?
Photography credit: Nick Scott/Bauersyndication.com.au. Names have been changed.*