You do not need to detox

Teas or drinks intended to rid the body of toxins can cause physical discomfort while enlarging a societal issue of body shaming.

by Olivia Powell, Writer

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Khloé Kardashian recently posted a sponsored advertisement on Instagram that promoted a detox tea made by Flat Tummy Co. “The Good Place” actress Jameela Jamil quickly commented in response, explaining the drastically unhealthy effects of the product. She explained how Kardashian’s post ignored other components of healthy living while promoting a laxative. It’s nothing new in the world of celebrity gossip, but this time it caught my eye. I’d heard people talk about detoxes before but didn’t fully grasp the severity of its impacts. I didn’t realize that the seemingly subtle choice to detox involved physical symptoms, as well as a societal distortion of body image.

 

Flat Tummy Tea being used to “detox” the body sounds off many alarms in my head. First of all, I stand behind the idea that all food is good in moderation. Labeling foods as “good” and “bad” creates an expectation for people that simply shouldn’t exist. If I feel like eating ice cream, I will because I know it will make me happy. If I ate an entire tub of ice cream, then the pain from overeating would most likely override any joy.

 

Detoxes and cleanses often in the form of teas or juices are meant to rid the body of toxins that people may encounter in daily life. An article on the Huffington Post’s blog section explains the benefits of detoxes, followed by a list of symptoms that included “flu-like feeling, nausea, and itchy skin” to name a few. It also claims that, “these symptoms are indicative that your body is eliminating toxins and are a good sign,” comparing the symptoms to those of withdrawal from an addiction. This connection scares me, considering how hungry I feel after inconsistent meals. I know that if I prolonged my hunger I would feel horrible, but that doesn’t mean I’d risk “detoxification” for the happiness of eating.

 

As stated in the article, drawing a link between food and “addictive substances like caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, cocaine or heroin” starts to build an unhealthy relationship with food. “Food addiction” even seems to counteract the role of food in survival. Food is not an addiction. It’s a necessity for life. Despite the growing support for detoxes, other organizations have found negative effects of detoxing. Consumer Reports argued that detox teas were not proven to be very useful in losing weight. The National Center for Complementary or Integrative Health also explained the risks of worsening kidney conditions and low likelihood of losing weight. Because I am not a nutritionist, I’ll leave the scientific research up to you.

 

I’m not discouraging you from fasting on Lent if you are Christian. I’m not telling you what to eat. I simply hope to present my view on why detoxes skew our perception of our bodies and the reality that we are all genetically unique. Even if a weight-loss or detox tea tells me that my body is toxic, I feel a glimpse of shame. A part of me says, “I need to be clean and healthy.”  But, if the path of being healthy and “detoxed” involves side effects, I don’t want to go there. If we constantly see advertisements convincing us that we aren’t healthy, we begin to believe it. And when we begin to believe it, we are willing to suffer from symptoms as mentioned by the Huffington Post like nausea, irritability, and fatigue that wear down our spirit.

 

Weight-loss drinks are one facet of a culture that is detached from intuitive eating, an outlook on food is not based on discipline or guilt, but viewing all food as nutrients. Consuming food seems to have become a discipline, filling those who haven’t “mastered” it with self-reproach. I have days that I seriously regret eating those three doughnuts in one sitting, but must ask myself why I feel that way. Do I regret eating them because I feel sick now, or do I regret eating them because I feel guilty? Most of the time, it’s the guilt that wins out and it takes conscious redirecting to tell myself that I am conditioned to believe that I’m unhealthy. No matter what we eat, guilt does not come from ourselves. It is taught to us throughout our lives by society and advertisements.

 

I refuse to believe that my body is toxic or that it needs to be cleansed. It is a challenge to combat constant advertisements, whether directly from companies and influencers or filtered down into the beliefs of society. I challenge detoxes when I eat foods that make me happy, then encouraging others to do the same if I hear comments about detoxing. In the end, we’re bound to get misleading information that tells us we need a detox. The reality is that we don’t. So, the next time you see an influencer post about a detox tea, shake or diet drink, the best thing we can all do is think about why it’s destructive to a body-positive culture.

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