Implications of Detox Teas in the Weight Loss Industry, Jameela Jamil

By Bette Cher || Staff Writer

If you’re not living underneath a pop-cultural rock, you’ve heard about the “feud” between Jameela Jamil and the Kardashians. Jamil, whose notoriety is based in highly-rated U.S sitcom, The Good Place, has now famously critiqued “Super Family” the Kardashians in a slew of Instagram comments, posts, and recently formulated petitions on Change.org.

The western press has marketed Jamil’s criticism of the weight-loss industry, spearheaded by detox teas such as Flat Tummy Tea., as a public shaming or “calling out” or the Kardashians, whose social media shamelessly promotes the brands. The “feud” ultimately began in late February of 2019, to which Jamil issued the now-viral string of Instagram comments, mainly on Khloé posts endorsing detox teas, mainly Flat Tummy Tea & Co. Jamil criticized: “If you’re too irresponsible to: a) own up to the fact that you have a personal trainer, nutritionist, probable chef, and a surgeon to achieve your aesthetic rather than this laxative product… And b) tell them the side effects of this NON-FDA approved product, that most doctors are saying aren’t healthy. Possible Flat Tummy Tea side effects are cramping, stomach pains, diarrhea and dehydration… then I guess I have too.”

S. Bryn Austin, a professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, plainly explains that detox teas––teas marketed as “herbal” or “natural”, considered as dietary supplements a) do not actually detox, b) are not overseen by the FDA, and c) make blatantly false claims about “instantaneous” weight loss. Austin continues in saying: “These products are no more than a lucrative Trojan horse masquerading as a ‘wellness hack,’ cleverly engineered to get millions of people to abuse laxatives in hopes of looking thin,” she said, adding that the teas are “deceptive snake oil… at their best. At their worst, they are dangerous and sometimes life-ending toxic brews that exploit the insecurities of vulnerable consumers, especially teenage girls, who bear the brunt of the most intense body shaming pressures in our weight-obsessed culture.”

Basically, according to Nicole Avena, Phd., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and author of Why Diets Fail, just because dietary supplements and detox teas adopt the terms “herbal” or “all natural” doesn’t mean it’s always good for you––in fact, “Cleanse teas (like the one being promoted here) often contain mostly herbal laxatives, like senna. You will not lose weight using a laxative… You can cause severe damage to your digestive system by misusing laxatives, and laxative abuse is a serious matter that can lead to hospitalization.”

So, what do we know about detox teas and dietary supplements, other than that they (again)––a) do not actually detox, b) are not overseen by the FDA, and c) make blatantly false claims about “instantaneous” weight loss? We know the need to be defined by how much we weigh shamelessly appeals to the deepest insecurities of diet-culture, to which young women and men are the most impressionable demographic on increasing reports of ED. We know it, and its popularity, promotes weight as a definition of self-worth, deeming people like Kim and Khloé Kardashian as matriarchs of unrealistic perfection––when in reality they are, in fact, being paid “within the six-figure range” according to their mother, Kris Jenner.No. It isn’t the “perfect” Instagram influencers who are the villains of this story. Nor is it the Kardashian clan, though they have, as Jamil dictated, a responsibility to deconstruct harmful notions of perfection, rather than exaggerate them. Nor is it the FDA, whose effectiveness and outreach the public can no longer rely. This “feud” as the media has labelled it, is not about finding, and shaming, the faults of others––others such as the Kardashians, in which they, too, suffer the same silent shame. In this world, the one run by self-starvation, self-humiliation, and self-degradation––to which the greatest accomplishment of a young women is reaching zero, zero and ascribing to the same narrow measure of societal beauty––and once reaching that beauty, is still not happy. No. We must take the responsibility to reject societal notions of perfection––not because it’s unrealistic and harmful in itself, but because it degrades the intrinsic humanity within us all. For this, I say––thank you, Jameela. Thank you for inspiring controversy in a world where controversy can be considered unpopular and dangerous. Let’s not be afraid to also be unpopular and dangerous.

Sophomore Bette Cher is a Staff Writer. Her email is bcher@fandm.edu.

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