What Is the Kimkins Diet?

kimkins diet

Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

What Is the Kimkins Diet?

The Kimkins diet is a restrictive plan for weight loss that is dangerously low in calories, fat, carbohydrates, and fiber. The eating plan is partly based on the original Atkins diet (1972 version), hence the use of "kins" in its name. The original creator is neither a healthcare professional nor a nutrition expert, and trying this diet is risky for everyone, but especially for anyone with a history of disordered eating.

What Experts Say

"The Kimkins diet is a very low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet. Many experts agree that a diet this restrictive puts followers at risk for nutrient deficiencies and other serious health issues, in addition to the risks to body image and relationship with food that all diets carry."

Willow Jarosh, MS, RD

What You Can Eat

The Kimkins website, which is no longer in operation, listed five different Kimkins plans. While each was different, there were some common foods among them.

Lean Proteins

Lean protein makes up the great majority of the diet's suggested meals.

  • Skinless chicken breast
  • White fish
  • Shrimp
  • Sirloin steak
  • Tofu

Vegetables

Vegetables are allowed on some Kimkins plans, but they must be limited because they contain carbohydrates.

  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms
  • Kale

Multivitamin Supplements

The Kimkins diet suggests taking a daily multivitamin because meals are lacking in so many nutrients.

What You Cannot Eat

The Kimkins diet is very restrictive and eliminates many foods.

Grains and Starches

The diet allows so few carbohydrates and fiber that grains and starches are essentially eliminated.

  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots

Fruit

Since fruit also tends to be higher in carbs, fruits are also avoided on this diet.

  • Melons
  • Bananas
  • Citrus
  • Berries
  • Apples

Sugars and Added Sweeteners

Sugars and sweeteners add empty calories and carbs, so they are not permitted.

  • Desserts
  • Candy
  • Cookies
  • Cakes
  • Chocolate

How to Prepare the Kimkins Diet & Tips

With such low calorie counts, there is not much room in this diet for three full meals a day, let alone snacks. The Kimkins website reportedly urged followers to feel "semi-nauseous all the time" (or "SNATT") due to hunger.

One Kimkins plan was almost all protein—no fats, no vegetables, no dairy, etc. Another, listed as the most popular option, came out to about 500 to 600 calories per day.

The vegetarian plan was limited to 1,000 calories per day. There was also a shake option which was 800 calories per day. The plans were written in a very basic way and each one suggested users "take a complete multivitamin every day plus other desired supplements."

The Kimkins diet guidelines state that a day's eating generally shouldn't include more than 20 grams of total carbohydrates. This means that effective carbs plus fiber must not be more than 20 grams per day. However, the Kimkins sample menus on the website contained much less than this—at most, about 5 grams effective carbohydrate plus 7 grams fiber.

This is dangerously low, compared to the Atkins induction phase, where one of the current rules is to eat 20 grams of carbohydrates per day (12 to 15 of these grams need to be from cooked vegetables or salads).

Following a class action lawsuit, the Kimkins website and weight loss program (which charged around $60 for a lifetime membership) was shut down; it is no longer available.

Pros of the Kimkins Diet

The Kimkins diet was a popular diet scam during the early 2000s that facilitated rapid weight loss. However, the restrictive nature of this diet is dangerous and it should not be attempted. There are no benefits to trying this diet plan.

Cons of the Kimkins Diet

This very low-calorie diet has several dangerous drawbacks.

  • Dangerously restrictive: The Kimkins diet is very low in fiber, essential fatty acids, and many other nutrients. This is essentially a starvation diet that does not contain many of the nutritional basics to sustain life. A multivitamin and mineral supplement is recommended, but such supplements do not contain phytonutrients, fatty acids, and other important nutrients.
  • Recommends laxatives: In lieu of fiber or even fiber supplements, laxatives are recommended—a potentially dangerous practice if taken on a regular basis. Laxative abuse can lead to electrolyte imbalance and mineral disturbances. Dehydration resulting from laxative abuse may also cause tremors, weakness, kidney damage, fainting, blurry vision, and in the most severe cases, death.
  • Extremely low in calories: The diet is also very low in calories. Diets that are extremely low in calories do not work in the long term. In the short term, very low caloric intake and/or rapid weight loss can cause health problems including hair loss, fatigue, electrolyte imbalances, and increased risk of gallstones. If this is combined with laxative abuse, it can become very dangerous, very quickly. Additionally, much of the weight coming off during such a regimen will not be fat, but water weight, muscle, and other lean body tissue.
  • Fraudulent: The founder of the Kimkins diet came under scrutiny for banning paid members from her website if they disagreed with her and firing a spokesperson who questioned the diet's methods.
  • Promotes disordered eating: The main attraction of the Kimkins site was the discussion forum. Although there was undeniably a strong community, very extreme eating behaviors—especially very low calorie consumption—were encouraged (allegedly by the founder and her staff).
  • Harmful side effects: Some people who followed the Kimkins diet reported hair loss, chest pains, heart palpitations, and amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle). These are symptoms of rapid, unhealthy weight loss commonly associated with hormonal disruptions attributed to anorexia nervosa.

The Kimkins diet is not safe and could lead to health problems and/or disordered eating. There are safer ways to cut calories and limit carbohydrates for weight loss.

Is the Kimkins Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s dietary guidelines advise eating a mix of fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy products each day. The Kimkins low-carb, high-protein plan restricts most foods and food groups and doesn't provide adequate nutrition.

The Kimkins diet also restricts calories to around 500 to 600 per day, which is extremely dangerous and should not be attempted without medical supervision. The lowest number of calories most adults can consume without being at risk for nutrient deficiencies is about 1,600, according to the USDA. A low-calorie diet is only safe with a well-developed meal plan and only with supervision from a registered dietitian or a physician.

The Kimkins was compared to the Atkins diet, but it is much more restrictive than Atkins or any other low-carb plan and does not meet any expert guidelines for healthy eating. It is not recommended that anyone attempt this diet plan.

A Word From Verywell

Though touted as an effective low-carb diet, the Kimkins diet is not similar to Atkins or any healthy low-carb approach. When you are looking for a miracle, you can be susceptible to getting caught up in something that looks like it will deliver.

But when it comes to your health, stop and investigate. Ask yourself questions like, "Is this supported by a registered dietitian? Is it too good to be true?" It's also important to pay attention to the signs your body is sending. Listen for warning signals and put your health first. Talk to your doctor about a safe, effective weight loss plan that is right for you and your needs.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, genetics, age, stress level, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle. When it doubt, seek advice from a registered dietitian.

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3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Mehler PS, Brown C. Anorexia nervosa - medical complicationsJ Eat Disord. 2015;3:11. doi:10.1186/s40337-015-0040-8

  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services. 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Ninth Edition.