The Kimkins Diet Controversy

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On the Kimkins Diet, the vast majority of the calories come from low-fat protein foods. Dorling Kindersley/Getty Imgages

Kimkins is a diet created by a low-carb dieter who goes by the screen name of Kimmer. It is essentially a diet that's very low in calories, fat, carbs, and fiber. The diet is partly based on the original Atkins diet (1972 version), hence its name.

In 2007, articles mentioning or explaining the Kimkins diet were featured in People and Women's World magazines, which piqued public interest. However, controversy and a class action lawsuit followed by the end of the year.

 Women's World issued a public apology in 2008 for running the story, saying they could not stand behind it.

Who Is Kimmer?

"Kimmer" declined to give her real name until a class action lawsuit from paid members of her website revealed her to be Heidi Kimberly Diaz. She claimed to have lost almost 200 pounds in less than a year and kept it off for five years on her diet. However, there is no independent confirmation of this. She is neither a healthcare professional nor a nutrition expert.

What Do People Eat on Kimkins?

Kimkins has several different variations, some of which are as low as 500 calories per day. Lean proteins prepared with minimal fat are the predominant foods. Vegetables are optional, but a day's eating must not total more than 20 grams total carbohydrate. This means that effective carbs plus fiber must not be more than 20 grams per day. However, her sample menus have totals much less than this—at most, about 5 grams effective carbohydrate plus 7 grams fiber.

Compare this to Atkins Induction, where 12 to 15 grams effective carbohydrate from vegetables alone is now recommended.

What Are the Potential Problems With Kimkins?

  • The diet is very low in fiber, essential fatty acids, and many nutrients. This is essentially a starvation diet, which does not contain many of the basics for life, let alone optimal life. A multivitamin and mineral tablet is recommended, but this ignores phytonutrients, essential fatty acids, and other nutrients. In lieu of fiber, or even fiber supplements, Kimmer recommends laxatives, a potentially dangerous practice if taken on a regular basis.
  • It's very low in calories. Diets that are extremely low in calories do not work in the long run. Eventually, the need for survival takes over and appetite increases. In the meantime, many health problems can result. Very low-calorie diets should only be undertaken under the close supervision of a physician, if at all. Additionally, much of the weight coming off during such a regimen will not be fat, but muscle and other lean body tissue.

Brief Site Review

The Kimkins website offered five different Kimkins plans. One is almost all protein—no fats, no vegetables, no cheese, etc. One listed as the most popular option comes out to about 500 to 600 calories per day. The vegetarian option is limited to 1,000 calories per day. There is a shake option which is 800 calories per day. The plans are written in a very basic way, and each says to "take a complete multivitamin every day plus other desired supplements."

The main attraction of the site was the discussion forum. Although there was undeniably a strong and supportive community, people were clearly being encouraged in very extreme eating behaviors, especially very low calorie consumption.

Controversy around Kimkins

In addition to the mysteries about her identity, Kimmer and Kimkins came under scrutiny for several reasons:

  • Banning paid members from her website if they disagree with her.
  • Blaming people for not being strict enough if they don't continue to lose weight very quickly (up to a pound per day).
  • People eating only 400 calories per day were reportedly encouraged to continue. Those showing signs of eating disorders were also encouraged to keep going without intervention.

In October 2007 a two-part expose appeared on KTLA television news exploring and denouncing the diet. They followed up two months later with a segment that included admissions by Heidi Diaz. In January 2008 ABC's "Good Morning America" ran a negative segment on Kimkins.

Women's World issued an apology for running a favorable cover story the diet. John Tiedt, the attorney in the Kimkins members' class action lawsuit, released a report on the depositions of Heidi Diaz in March 2008.

Bottom Line on Kimkins

The Kimkins diet is not similar to Atkins or any healthy low-carb approach. Kimkins is a potentially dangerous diet. Often, you are looking for a miracle, and you can be susceptible to getting caught up in something that looks like it will deliver. But when it comes to your health—stop, investigate, get more opinions, and pay attention to the signals your body is sending. Listen for warning signals from others and put your health first.

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