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 health care provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

The Kimkins diet is a restrictive plan for weight loss created by a low-carb advocate who went by the pseudonym "Kimmer." It is dangerously low in calories, fat, carbohydrates, and fiber. The eating plan is partly based on the original Atkins diet (1972 version), hence its name.

In 2007, a Kimkins diet success story was featured on the cover of Woman's World magazine, which piqued public interest. However, controversy surrounding the safety of the diet ensued 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 it could no longer stand behind it.

"Kimmer" declined to give her real name until the class-action lawsuit filed by paid members of the diet plan revealed her to be Heidi Kimberly Diaz. There was never any independent confirmation of her own weight loss and the diet's claims could not be verified. She is neither a health care professional nor a nutrition expert.

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 Can You Eat?

The Kimkins website, which is no longer in operation, had five different Kimkins plans. One was almost all protein—no fats, no vegetables, no cheese, 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 to "take a complete multivitamin every day plus other desired supplements."

In general, a day's eating should not total more than 20 grams of total carbohydrates on the Kimkins diet. This means that effective carbs plus fiber must not be more than 20 grams per day. However, the totals on the Kimkins sample menus were much less than this—at most, about 5 grams effective carbohydrate plus 7 grams fiber. This, compared to the Atkins induction phase, where 12 to 15 grams of effective carbohydrate from vegetables alone is now recommended, is dangerously low.

What You Need to Know

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

Following the 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.

What to Eat
  • Lean proteins

  • Vegetables

  • Multivitamin

What Not to Eat
  • Grains and starches

  • Fruit

  • Sugars and sweeteners

  • Added fats

Lean Proteins

Lean protein, such as skinless chicken breast, makes up the great majority of the diet's suggested meals.

Vegetables

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

Multivitamin Supplements

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

Grains and Starches

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

Fruit

Since fruit also tends to be higher in carbs, it is also to be avoided on this diet.

Sugars and Added Sweeteners

These also add empty calories and carbs, so they are not permitted.

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • None

Cons
  • Dangerously restrictive

  • Fraudulent

  • Promotes disordered eating

  • Harmful side effects

The Kimkins diet was a popular diet scam during the early aughts that facilitated rapid weight loss. However, this restrictive nature of this diet is dangerous and it should not be attempted. There are no benefits to trying this diet plan, but you should review the drawbacks to inform your decision.

Cons

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 tablet is recommended, but this ignores phytonutrients, fatty acids, and other nutrients. In lieu of fiber or even fiber supplements, Laxatives are recommended—a potentially dangerous practice if taken on a regular basis.

The diet is also very low in calories. Diets that are extremely low in calories do not work in the long term. Eventually, the need for survival takes over and appetite increases. In the meantime, many health problems and side effects can result. Additionally, much of the weight coming off during such a regimen will not be fat, but the muscle and other lean body tissue.

Fraudulent

In addition to the mysteries about her identity, Diaz 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. It's now believed that Diaz never lost any weight on the plan.

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 Diaz and by employees).

People showing signs of eating disorders were also encouraged to keep going without intervention. Diaz also reportedly blamed followers for not being strict enough if they didn't continue to lose weight very quickly (up to a pound per day) and brushed off reports of side effects and health problems resulting from the diet.

Harmful Side Effects

Reports of hair loss, chest pains, heart palpitations, and amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle) are associated with some people who lost weight on the Kimkins diet, which 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.

Is the Kimkins Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

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

The USDA also recommends consuming an average of 1,500 calories a day for weight loss. But the Kimkins diet restricts calories to around 500 to 600 per day, which is extremely dangerous and should not be attempted without medical supervision.

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.

Health Benefits

There are no benefits associated with the Kimkins diet and attempting this restrictive eating plan can be detrimental to your health and could lead to the development of an eating disorder.

Health Risks

While proponents of the Kimkins diet claim they successfully lost significant weight in a short period of time, reports indicate many people following the diet experienced dangerous side effects harmful to their health and well-being, including hair loss, chest pain, and amenorrhea.

Similar Diets

Other low-carb diets allow for greater flexibility and many more calories than the Kimkins diet offers, not to mention, they're a lot safer for weight loss. Here's how they compare:

Kimkins Diet

  • General nutrition: The diet describes itself as high-protein and low-carb, but in practice, it is extremely low-carb, low-fat, low-fiber, and low-calorie. It does not offer sufficient nutrients.
  • Safety: The diet is not safe for anyone to follow and can have serious consequences for physical and mental health.
  • Sustainability: For practical and health reasons, the diet is unsustainable.

Atkins Diet

  • General nutrition: The Atkins diet is a phased plan that cuts carbs in order to promote weight loss. But even in its initial, most restrictive phase, the diet doesn't restrict calories as Kimkins does, and it requires followers to consume dietary fat.
  • Safety: The Atkins diet is safe for most people, especially since it is a phased program that allows for adjustments to the number of carbohydrates consumed.
  • Effectiveness: Many people do succeed in losing weight on the Atkins diet. To keep it off, they will usually have to follow some form of the diet (the maintenance phase) for life.
  • Sustainability: With discipline, it is possible to maintain weight loss and continue eating Atkins-style for the long term.

Dukan Diet

  • General nutrition: Like Atkins, the Dukan diet is also a phased plan that focuses on boosting protein and cutting carbs. But unlike Atkins, it is also low in fat.
  • Safety: The diet is quite restrictive in its first phase, which could mean missing out on important nutrients. But this phase is quite short. The consolidation phase, meant to help make the transition from weight loss to maintenance, is a helpful strategy.
  • Effectiveness: Though the diet can be effective for weight loss, in general, it lacks sufficient evidence.
  • Sustainability: Because its rules are strict and difficult to follow, this diet is difficult to continue.

Very Low-Calorie Diet

  • General nutrition: A very low-calorie diet supplies only 800 or fewer calories per day, in the form of meal replacements that are designed to be nutritionally complete. (The Kimkins diet is even lower in calories and is not nutritionally balanced.)
  • Safety: This diet is only available by prescription from a doctor, and requires medical supervision. Under those conditions, it is safe.
  • Effectiveness: Some research has shown the diet to be effective in obese patients.
  • Sustainability: The diet is a short-term strategy to quickly reduce weight in people whose weight is causing health problems. Once it is over, they will need continued lifestyle changes to keep losing weight and maintain weight loss.

A Word From Verywell

The Kimkins diet is not similar to Atkins or any healthy low-carb approach as Kimkins is a potentially dangerous diet. 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. Get more opinions, and pay attention to the signs your body is sending. Listen for warning signals from others 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, and 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, 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.

Was this page helpful?
Article 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.
  1. Wood D. Consumer Affairs. Kimkins Diet Rolls On Despite Founder’s Excess Poundage. February 25, 2008.

  2. ABC News. Online Diet Comes Under Scrutiny. Updated February 9, 2009. 

  3. Stein D, Keller S, Ifergan IS, et al. Extreme risk-taking behaviors in patients with eating disordersFront Psychiatry. 2020;11:89. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00089

  4. Mehler PS, Brown C. Anorexia nervosa - medical complicationsJ Eat Disord. 2015;3:11. doi:10.1186/s40337-015-0040-8

  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015.

  6. Anton SD, Hida A, Heekin K, et al. Effects of popular diets without specific calorie targets on weight loss outcomes: systematic review of findings from clinical trialsNutrients. 2017;9(8). doi:10.3390/nu9080822

  7. Haywood CJ, Prendergast LA, Purcell K, et al. Very low calorie diets for weight loss in obese older adults-a randomized trialJ Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2017;73(1):59-65. doi:10.1093/gerona/glx012