What Is the Kimkins Diet?

In This Article

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

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

Background

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 it could not stand behind it.

"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.

How It Works

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."

In general, a day's eating must not total more than 20 grams of 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 to Eat

Compliant Foods

  • Lean proteins

  • Vegetables

  • Multivitamin

Non-Compliant Foods

  • Grains and starches

  • Fruit

  • Sugars and sweeteners

  • Added fats

Lean Proteins

Learn protein, such as skinless chicken breasts, 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 and sometimes fiber, it is also to be avoided on this diet.

Sugars and Added Sweeteners

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

Recommended Timing

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

Resources and Tips

Following the lawsuit, the Kimkins website (which charged $60 for a lifetime membership) was shut down; it is no longer available.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • None

Cons

  • Dangerously restrictive

  • Promotes disordered eating

  • Fraudulent

Cons

Dangerously Restrictive

The Kimkins 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, Kimkins recommends laxatives, 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 run. 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 muscle and other lean body tissue.

This diet is not safe and could lead to health problems and/or disordered eating.

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 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. 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.

Fraudulent

In addition to the mysteries about her identity, Diaz and Kimkins 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 (or at least, nowhere near the 198 pounds she claimed to have lost).

How It Compares

While Diaz compared Kimkins to the Atkins diet, in fact, it is much more restrictive than Atkins or any other low-carb plan and does not meet any expert guidelines for healthy eating.

USDA Recommendations

Food Groups

The USDA's MyPlate 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.

Similar Diets

Other low-carb diets allow for greater flexibility and many more calories than the Kimkins plans offer.

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.
  • Effectiveness: Consuming such a low-calorie diet will likely lead to weight loss. However, losing weight this quickly and in this manner almost certainly means regaining the weight as soon as the diet is stopped.
  • 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 through ketosis. But even in its initial, most restrictive phase, the diet doesn't restrict calories like 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 amount of carbohydrates consumed.
  • Effectiveness: Many people do succeed in losing weight on the Atkins diet. To keep it off, they will have to follow a 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: One study has shown the diet to be effective for weight loss, but it was small and hasn't been replicated.
  • Sustainability: Because its rules are strict and difficult to follow, this diet is hard 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 studies have 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.

Was this page helpful?