Are skinny teas slimming you down, or your wallet?

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Losing weight happens when there’s a caloric deficit: the calories you burn when you move exceed the calories you take in when you eat.

Based on this principle, there are two ways to lose weight quickly – increasing the calories you burn with movement, like intense exercise, or decreasing the calories you take in when you eat.

This is where dieting (and good marketing) comes into the picture. Oh, and skinny tea. Perhaps you’re wondering: does skinny tea really work?

What are skinny teas?

Skinny teas (also called slimming teas, diet teas, or teatoxes) are teas made from a blend of herbs that promote weight loss. Some must be taken once a day, and others have one blend for daytime and another for nighttime. They are usually accompanied by a recommended meal plan and workout regimen to supplement the tea.

Skinny teas are often endorsed by health-conscious celebrities, and come at a dear cost.

How do skinny teas work?

Skinny teas promise a rapid drop in weight resulting in a slimmer body shape. They typically work by reducing water weight, suppressing appetite, and increasing energy so you can work out more.

Skinny teas are a lot like fad diets, detoxes, and juice cleanses. After the first week or so of being on these regimens, you drop the promised pounds – in water weight. That’s because skinny teas often contain diuretics and laxatives that make you excrete large amounts of water in your urine or waste, and allow you to lose a handful of pounds straightaway.

Common ingredients found in skinny teas are natural laxatives like senna, rhubarb root, and castor oil. These substances are typically used to treat constipation. Senna, for example contains compounds called sennosides, which irritate the lining of the colon and promote bowel movement. However, when combined in skinny teas and used when you don’t have constipation, these ingredients can induce diarrhea, causing a drop in water weight.

Skinny teas also contain caffeine. Caffeine stimulates your sympathetic nervous system, rerouting your blood to your brain and muscles. This increases your energy so you’re able to exercise more, and thus burn off more calories. This also means less blood is routed to your stomach and digestive system, suppressing hunger. You eat less and take in less calories, supplementing the caloric deficit.

Finally, caffeine is also a diuretic. It encourages the excretion of sodium by the kidneys. Water has an affinity to sodium, so it follows the sodium to your kidneys and is excreted in the urine in larger amounts than usual.

It’s worth noting, however, that the effects of caffeine in skinny teas dwindle once you’ve built up a tolerance to caffeine. Expect the effects of the tea to decline after prolonged use. Also, if you’re already a heavy coffee or tea drinker before you begin your skinny tea regimen, the effects of skinny tea on you won’t be as strong.

For the most part, skinny teas do deliver: you lose weight fast, speed up your metabolism, and gain more energy. However, these effects are short-lived because the mechanism of action of skinny teas is not sustainable.

Here’s the catch

Skinny tea regimens rely heavily on decreasing your caloric intake. If you’re replacing your usual meals with the low-calorie tea, there will be less calories to burn for energy so your body has to break down fat stores. Now, while that sounds logical, it’s unrealistic to think you would be able to subsist solely on the tea for a prolonged period of time. Eventually, you’ll find the tea won’t be able to support your energy needs for a regular day. You’ll go back to eating normally, and weight will return.

More importantly, dropping water weight that quickly is dangerous. It may lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, both of which can become life-threatening. Not to mention, the laxatives in skinny teas may give you stomach cramps and flatulence. Having to rush to the bathroom multiple times a day is downright unpleasant and inconvenient. And once you rehydrate to replace the lost fluids, all the water weight will come back.

Frequent use of laxatives might also cause you to develop a dependence on them, causing “lazy bowel syndrome”. Because the laxative makes it easy for your body to pass waste, the smooth muscles of your colon no longer have to work as hard. When you stop using the laxative, your smooth muscles will not be strong enough to pass regular waste, causing constipation.

Drinking skinny teas might also interfere with medications you’re taking. For example, if you’re taking contraceptive pills, skinny teas may reduce their efficacy. Taking laxatives means your digestive system is moving too quickly; the body may not be able to absorb the pill completely before it’s swept out with your waste. This may increase your risk of accidentally getting pregnant.

Lastly, there’s always a risk with herbal dietary supplements as manufacturers do not have to adhere to stringent safety standards. Skinny teas may contain questionable substances that the manufacturers do not have to declare before their product goes on the market.

The bottom line

If the question was simply down to whether skinny teas made you drop weight, then the answer is yes. However, the quest to a healthy body isn’t only about slimming down. You also need to look at whether you can sustain the weight loss, and if you’re doing so in a manner that won’t be hazardous to your health.

As mentioned previously, skinny tea regimens are often accompanied by a suggested meal plan and workout routine to support drinking the tea. At the end of the day, the shift to eating whole foods and exercising will become responsible for your weight loss, not the tea.

In this case, it’s much wiser to avoid the questionable ingredients in skinny tea altogether, and just focus on eating a balanced diet with controlled portions and upping your physical activity. Skip the skinny tea and slim down in a healthy, safe, sustainable way – without having to slim your wallet down.

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