Kimkins: Anatomy of a Diet Scam

Kimkins: Anatomy of a Diet Scam

Your high school reunion is 3 weeks away and you're 25 pounds overweight. Know the feeling? Even if you don't have an event to plan for, it's only natural to want to lose weight fast, and the faster the better. Quick weight loss diets are tempting, but most of us have learned the hard way that gimmicky diets are not the way to go. Then you run across an article about a diet in a national women's magazine, and you visit its glossy, professional looking website. They promise weight loss faster than gastric bypass surgery, and promise us it's safe. It was profiled in a magazine you trust, so what have you got to lose? This is what you've been waiting for! What happens next is not what you would find in a cheerful women's magazine, but is the kind of thing you see on tv news shows such as Dateline or 20/20. From a diet that sounds like the answer to your dreams, this story evolves into a nightmare of deceit, fraud, and ill health.

What is Kimkins?
Kimkins is a very low carb, very low calorie, very low fat diet plan devised by a low carb dieter several years ago. The creator was on the Atkins plan and decided to tweak it to her needs and came up with a plan so low in calories and carbs that it was guaranteed to cause quick weight loss. Her online nickname was Kimmer, so she dubbed her modified Atkins plan as Kimkins. Kimmer claimed to lose 198 pounds in 11 months, and had a lot of curious netizens asking for her advice, because they also wanted quick weight loss success. Kimmer took her secrets to a new website, Kimkins.com, and sold expensive memberships so others could achieve the same successful weight loss that she had worked for. Her website and plan was profiled by Women's World magazine, resulting in countless thousands of new memberships, and wealth for Kimmer. Women's World also profiled two other Kimkins success stories, Deni and Christin (more about them later). It sounds like a fairy tale weight loss success story, doesn't it? Fairy tale may be the key phrase, unfortunately. New information has come out proving that the Kimkins plan is not as advertised, and that the creator of the plan has been hiding one very large secret.

We first heard of the Kimkins plan a couple of months ago, when one of our members inquired about it. We googled and were shocked by what we found. We didn't know anything about the founder of the plan, but the diet itself sounded very unhealthy. It's primarily protein, with very few carbs or fat. The Kimkins plan was initially based on the original Atkins induction plan from the 70s. That plan allowed 20 carbs per day, which included all carbs including fiber, and included plenty of calories from fat and protein. The new Atkins doesn't count carbs from fiber since they are not digested anyway. However, the Atkins plan also allows plenty of fat which is necessary for body functions, and the overall calories average at least 1200 or more, according to published sample menus. The Atkins plan has a large medical team behind it, with much research and medical supervision during development. The Kimkins plan took the old Atkins induction and reduced it further by virtually eliminating fat from the diet, leaving primarily protein and very few carbs. This resulted in a calorie level of around 700 calories. The diet lacks many essential nutrients because it is so unbalanced and most medical experts agree that 700 calories per day is too low for good health.

The Plan Behind the Plan
Most people on Kimkins don't follow the plan mentioned above, or the one described in Women's World magazine. They follow the "plan behind the plan" which is heavily promoted by Kimmer from within the membership, according to her members. Followers are instructed to cut calories to dangerously low levels, many reporting 500 calories or less. When they ask for advice regarding the diet, the members say Kimmer frequently either congratulates them on going so low or instructs them to cut their calories further. Most members strive to achieve SNATT, which stands for Semi Nauseous All The Time. This is because they are starving themselves so badly that they feel ill, as their bodies try to warn them something's wrong. Kimmer considers this optimal, showing that Kimkins is working. Kimkins even sells tshirts and mousepads that proudly say SNATT as reminders to followers of their goals. Followers are also encouraged to take laxatives on a regular basis, since the diet itself is lacking fiber and causes constipation.

Kimmer claims we don't need carbs or fat. She admits that she doesn't have a medical background or even basic training in nutrition. It's apparent that she lacks common nutritional knowledge. Vegetables and fruits are loaded with necessary vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and micro-nutrients that are necessary to keep us healthy, keep our brains and other organs functioning properly. Even fat is necessary for everything from brain function to hormonal balance to keeping our bowels healthy. Since the plan is primarily protein, you also risk kidney damage from long term use, and it could be extremely dangerous to anyone that already has kidney problems. According to a published email exchange between Kimmer and one of her website admins here, Kimmer claims we only need one piece of chicken and a cup of salad a day.

Dangers of the Kimkins Diet
Many Kimkins followers have been complaining of serious side effects from the plan including hair loss, heart palpitations, fainting, confusion, and more. When approached about these problems, they claim Kimmer brushed them off, saying they were not the result of the plan and the member must be cheating. Go lower in calories and you'll be fine. In the published email exchange between Kimmer and one of her staff, Kimmer stated that she couldn't help it if the members were "too stupid" to go to a doctor (read).

The plan promotes pro-anorexia techniques to get followers to stick with the plan, such as laxative abuse. Kimmer recommends regular use of laxatives to her members. She attempts to justify this by pointing out that one of her members was prescribed laxatives by her doctor, so that must mean it's safe. Only that member and her doctor know what kind of problem she had that required a laxative, and if that laxative was to be used more than once. Regular use of laxatives is very dangerous, and could result dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and even laxative dependence.

If your teenage daughter decided to cut calories that drastically and take laxatives, how would you react? You'd worry she had an eating disorder, and you'd seek help for her before her health suffered. You love her, you're a good mother. Why would you treat yourself any differently?

How Does Kimkins Compare To Other Diet Plans or Weight Loss Surgery?
The cover of Women's World Magazine shouted "Better than Gastric Bypass!" to advertise the Kimkins diet. Kimmer justified the low calorie plan by comparing it to the diets followed by Weight Loss Surgery patients, who also consume around 500 calories. Kimmer failed to note that those patients follow special diets which do NOT resemble Kimkins, and they are also carefully monitored by physicians as they progress. The reason they eat so little is because their body is healing from the surgery so the need the extra protein, and it's impossible to get more food into their pouches. Soon, they introduce more foods including fruits and grains. WLS patients also gradually increase their calories on a regular basis until they eat 1000-1200 calories per day, while still being monitored by their physicians. This is nothing like Kimkins.

Amy 3FC, our sister and site partner, had gastric bypass surgery in 2004. She knows all too well what it's like to lose weight from such a low calorie and restrictive diet. When I described Kimkins to her, and Kimmer's claims that it was fine because WLS patients were able to do it, she responded "This girl is full of it if she thinks this is a good way to lose weight. I lost hair, energy and looked like death in the face, sagging skin, dry and itchy."

Kimmer also tries to compare Kimkins to very low calorie diets such as Optifast and Medifast, claiming they include 450-700 calories for months. Once again, her comparison is way off. Optifast includes 800 calories of carefully formulated nutritional products, and requires physician monitoring due to the potential dangers of such a low calore diet. Medifast includes 800 to 1000 calories of nutritional products along with real food, and about 100 carbs. Those plans were carefully developed by medical and nutrition experts and have undergone years of hospital and university studies. The plans include all of the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs. Kimkins has never, ever been studied, and is severely lacking in vitamins and other nutrients.

Who is Kimmer, and how can she get away with such dangerous diet advice?
Kimmer's real name is Heidi Kimberly Diaz, and she became popular and trusted because she was a diet success story. Losing 198 pounds is very impressive! She was a regular member of the Low Carb Friends forum, and posted her "before" picture for everyone to see. Her "after" pictures sparked controversy because they didn't resemble her before pictures in any way. In fact, she posted a series of 'after' photos that were of several different women, which stirred up even more speculation. When Women's World magazine featured Kimkins in their magazine, she refused to meet them in person or attend a photo shoot. So Women's World allowed her to email a photo to them. The photo they published once again did not resemble the 49 year old Kimmer who'd lost 198 pounds, but looked like a 20-something very fit and firm model in a tight, revealing dress and without a wrinkle or sag anywhere. In an audio podcast with Jimmy Moore, Kimmer explained the young appearance as having been lucky to have really good skin. It looked like Kimmer had found not only the fastest diet on the planet, but also tapped into the Fountain of Youth. Furthermore, Kimmer told Women's World that her name was Kim Drake, though she admitted elsewhere that her real name was Heidi Diaz, and that she frequently uses pen-names. Kim is her middle name, and Drake is apparently her mother's maiden name, according to Ancestry.com.

Curiosity and rumors began to spread like wildfire. Finally, someone decided to hire a private investigator to find Kimmer and learn which of the many 'after' photos Kimmer really was. Instead, what they learned was that Kimmer was even heavier than her original 'before' photo. The private investigator went to great lengths to determine that he had the right person - Heidi Diaz. This time, the person in the 'after' photo looked just like the 'before' picture from Kimmer's Low Carb Friends account. Except this Kimmer hadn't lost 198 pounds. She appeared to have gained weight, not lost it. Click here to view the photos. The exterior of the home and parking garage also match exactly the home captured in a YouTube video recorded by Heidi's son, Brandon.

Kimmer responded by saying that she wasn't really Heidi Diaz. She claims Heidi is a partner that agreed to put everything in her name, and she thought it was wrong for her to be photographed that way. That doesn't fly because Kimmer had already admitted that her first name was Heidi and her last name was Diaz. This is in her own words, written on the Low Carb Friends forum when she was an active member there.

Kimmer refuses to meet people, and apparently no one has ever met her. Her members are planning a Kimkins cruise, which Kimmer refuses to attend. She claims it would be too stressful because everyone would be photographing her, staring at her, and writing about her in their blogs, or there would be stalkers putting her safety at risk. Who does she think she is, Britney Spears? We've been in Women's World magazine, too. We've also been in O, the Oprah magazine, Fitness, Prevention, People, and many more magazines, national newspapers, as well as various international publications. Yet we've never had paparazzi hiding in our bushes. We've also never had a PI staking us out just to find out if we are fat or thin. We're fat chicks and have never denied our ups and downs with our weight. We've also never tried to defraud you out of your hard earned money by providing fake testimonials for dangerous diet plans.

Speaking of fraud..
Kimmer has proudly discussed her foster children, as well as her duties as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) to children. According to various members of the Kimkins website, Kimmer claimed last year that all proceeds from the Kimkins memberships would go towards a special fund to help her foster children start their homes when they turned 18 and were no longer supported by the state. One of the Kimkins admins also suggested that members donate $1 for every pound lost to a special fund for the same. It is unknown how much money, if any, was collected on behalf of the foster children. However, the Kimkins Dangers website is reporting that the local CASA office has stated that she has not been a foster parent or CASA for quite a few years, and it is currently investigating claims that Kimkins committed fraud by allowing others to solicit funds on her behalf.

Bad advice
Despite the possible fraud above, or the fact that Kimmer (Heidi Diaz) appears to have lied about her own success with the diet she sells, we are more concerned with the bad and/or dangerous advice she hands out, and her obvious lack of research behind her marketing. Even the newsletters she sends in an attempt to gain new members are filled with obvious misinformation. For example, she frequently compared the cost of Kimkins to the cost of other plans. Kimkins is $59 for a (so-called) lifetime subscription. She notes this is an incredible bargain next to Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem at $3950 per year. She neglects to point out that Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem are also providing you with your food. In another comparison newsletter, she claims that her newsletter is free, while the South Beach Diet newsletter will cost you $29.95. She fails to mention that the South Beach Newsletter by email is FREE just like hers. It is the print version of the SBD newsletter that you pay for, and it is similar to a magazine. It appears as if she will say anything without verifying it. This is the woman who wants you to trust her diet and health advice?

Kimkins Success Stories
Do you remember Deni and Christin from the beginning of this article? They were Kimkins success stories and were featured in Women's World magazine. Another Kimkins success story, Becky, became an admin on the site. All three became part of Kimmer's staff and were integral parts of marketing the Kimkins plan. This didn't last long. All three have left Kimkins, citing major problems behind the scenes, including frustration from the lies, secrecy, and bad diet advice from Kimmer. All three have since reported side effects from the plan, some included hair loss, cessation of menstruation, and more. Each has started blogs detailing their experiences. Visit Becky's blog, Deni's blog, and Christin's blog (update: Christin's other blog here). Jimmy Moore, who used to be Kimkins biggest affiliate, cut ties with Kimkins after Kimmer agreed to an audio interview. Jimmy became suspicious and disillusioned. You can read more about Jimmy's experience on his website.

What's next?
Kimkins members, who paid for lifetime memberships, have been banned for merely questioning the validity of the diet plan, or the mystery behind Kimmer. Members' PMs are being read, and members banned based on the content. Kimmer installed a tracking beacon so she can follow her members around the internet. If they post elsewhere, they may be banned. What happened to lifetime membership?

If you've suffered ill health, or have other serious complaints regarding the Kimkins diet plan, please file a complaint with the FTC at http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/cmplanding.shtm.

How to learn from this and avoid getting sucked into a scam
Earlier this year, we posted a warning on our forum based on advertising copy of a diet ebook. It was pitched with an affiliate offer to convince you that diet plans were easy sales, because the customer base was desperate.

Fact - the weight loss market contains hoards of RABID buyers. A rabid buyer is someone who purchases as many products they can get their hands on to solve their problem. They are so desperate for a solution, price is often not a factor.

Fact - 96% of dieters FAIL within one year. This means there is a constant stream of unhappy buyers desperately seeking a solution that works.

If you're in the affiliate game, you've probably stumbled across a few products that sell like wildfire, and a few more that do nothing but eat up your ad budget. What's the difference between a run-away success and a miserable failure? The Offer.

The Offer is what makes the difference. More than the website design, even more than the sales copy. Present an irresistible offer to a desperate crowd, and the result will be more sales notifications than you can count in one day.

Formula for high sales conversions:

irresistible offer + desperate crowd = many, many sales

Weight Loss - A Whopping Market!

The second requirement is a desperate crowd. As talked about in the facts above, you'll see we've picked the perfect "crowd" to market to. According to Yahoo/Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool, 647,612 people search for the term "weight loss" every month. 986,732 search for "diet". Not counting all the other terms, that's at least 1.63 million people desperately seeking to fix their weight problem every single month.

It's that easy, folks. Kimmer promised us the fastest diet on the planet. Lose a pound a day, without hunger or exercise. It was an irresistible offer made to a desperate crowd. It is estimated that Kimmer has brought in approximately $2,000,000 in sales since the Women's World magazine article ran.

I was going to wrap this up with a lesson in avoiding a diet scam. But I think we all know how to read the red flags and warning signs. Sometimes we choose to ignore them because we want something so badly. The next time you consider a diet plan, ask yourself what you really want. Are you willing to trade your health just to reach your goal a little faster? Take your time and do the research. Don't buy a diet plan blindly - it's like taking candy from strangers.

  • Tina Dodgen

    I bought the magazine with the article, I was so excited to try it. I am very glad I came across this article. Thank you.

  • A reader

    Today, October 29, 2010, Judge Rick Brown of the Riverside County Superior Court entered a verdict for the plaintiffs in a certified national class action lawsuit. The court entered a verdict against Heidi Diaz the owner of the diet website Kimkins.com for fraud and false advertising. The court awarded the class members restitution in the amount of $1,824,210.39. The court also awarded an additional $500,000 in punitive damages as well as attorney fees. The court then issued a temporary restraining order to freeze all of the assets of Ms. Diaz.

    Most notably, the court also imposed an injunction requiring Heidi Diaz to post on all of her websites that: (1) she lied about her weight loss; (2) she lied about her after diet pictures; (3) she lied about testimonials on her website; and (4) she lied about the photographs used with the testimonials to promote the Kimkins website.

    An injunction was also issued to prevent Heidi Diaz from contracting, harassing or cyberbulling the plaintiffs and the witnesses. A formal judgment will be entered before November 19, 2010.

    The original complaint was filed over three years ago on October 15, 2007. I want to thank everyone who supported the class action lawsuit. The Ducks were wonderful. I met a lot of great people and made a lot of new friends fighting for a good cause. Heidi Diaz lied on her website and made the fatal mistake of lying in the courtroom. You cannot trust Heidi Diaz. I anticipate more legal (illegal) maneuvering by Heidi Diaz to evade the judgment. We will be prepared and I will be relentless. Again, I thank all you.

    John E. Tiedt
    TIEDT & HURD

  • Karla Weathersby

    This is really interesting. I checked this program out a few years ago. While it was intriguing, I didn’t really get too excited. It looked so much like Atkins and I had great success with that so I stuck to what worked for me before. I trust Atkins because of all of the research. I can eat the foods I enjoy most and still lose weight.
    Today, I had an email from Kimkins. I went to that beautiful website and was almost sucked in. I have a special event in 7 weeks and would love to have 30 pounds off by then. Realistically, I should have started about 4 months ago. I’m back to my tried and true Atkins and know I will be down 10 to 15 pounds by my event and that is fine with me. I am doing it the healthy way making sure I eat 1200 calories a day.
    Hopefully, Kimkins will get shut down. Until then, they go to my SPAM folder.

  • Jill

    I am not defending this diet. I think it’s barely one step away from what you see advocated on pro-ana sites. But here is my question, would there be so much controversy about Kimkins if the diet’s creator was thin?

    I mean, technically, the diet causes weight loss because it’s STARVATION. But suppose someone who had been fat but is now an anorexic was pimping the diet? Or someone who had never been fat and wasn’t following it, but was thin and the poster child for the supposed “health” and “vitality” that is always associated with thin?

    Would anyone have said anything? Would the law have stepped in to protect all those KimKins devotees starving themselves into an eating disorder?

    Would anyone give a damn?

    Because the diet is crap, whether the creator is thin or fat. It’s shit, it’s impossible to maintain long-term without becoming disordered and it’s deadly. But so is the Master Cleanse and the HGC diet, and nobody is going after the folks who shill those.

  • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

    I know this is an old post (I was googling around about Kimkins since I see her site is still up) but I wanted to say: You can’t give yourself kidney damage from eating protein. If you ALREADY have kidney damage then eating too much protein is dangerous, but the idea that protein will cause that damage is a myth that refuses to die. If you pay attention, you’ll even find that people say that about animal protein, but not about plant protein–it’s pretty obvious what the underlying agenda is.