I wasn't gonna, but I gotta...The Kimkins Debacle, and some Super Smart Diet Tips
Posted Sep 12 2008 4:33am
In case you were wondering, I've been out of country on business; hence, no blogging. So for those of you that thought I was idly lounging about in the sun, sipping iced tea with lemon and tanning my near-blue legs into leather territory, shame on you! That's THIS week.
I'd intended to dive back in to the ol' Fear and Loathing blog with a rousing account of the horrifying meals I was faced with whilst in the US of A, an ode to my new found love Trader Joe, and perhaps even an update on the state of my bowels. Instead, I'm going to talk about the scandal that's left the low-carb world reeling, the only damn thing I'm hearing (well, reading) about lately - the Kimkins scandal.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's the Reader's Digest condensed version: a long time ago on a low-carb forum far, far away, some chick with the handle "Kimmer" decided that since she lost a small houseboatful of weight by tweaking Atkins, she'd let her forum friends know and offer herself up for questions. Her method (pretty much Stillmans, or '72 Atkins without the fat) brought on quick weight loss, and people loved it. The forum friends christened it "Kimkins" and a guru was born. She went from having her own thread on the message boards to having her own business, with banner ads and a $60 membership fee. Yes, people paid it.
Kimkins evolved into several diet plans. They're all pretty low cal, low fat and low carb. She began to encourage the use of laxatives and water fasts to her followers. Her message boards became notorious in the low-carb world as heavily moderated gulags where dissenters were given the boot. Jimmy Moore became an affiliate and promoted the hell outta Kimkins. An article in "Woman's World" ensued. You can even buy Kimkins tees, aprons and mousepads...or go to Mexico on the Kimkins cruise.
It's all come crashing down now... Jimmy Moore will have nothing to do with her and anti-Kimmer blogs are cropping up like dandelions (scroll to the end of this post for links). Why? Strange business and marketing practices, questions about her true identity, fake pictures posted as "after" pictures of her and of her "clients"...and the fact that her diet advice is at best questionable, at worst dangerous.
Kimkins has 5 options. I can't get information from the official Kimkins website, because I do not want to pay the $60 membership fee required to even get an outline of the plan (evidently, she forgets that she started out on a free diet forum). This information comes from forums and blogs about the Kimkins diet. All options are basically low calorie plus low-fat and low-carb. By low calorie, I mean under 1000 cals/day, for the most part. She also advocates taking laxatives and fasting. I could go on and on about why her plans aren't sound, but instead I'd prefer to offer up a few little diet tips. If you're in the market for a new diet plan (and some people change plans like shoes), read up.
Super Smart Diet Tip 1: Ask for I.D. Anyone can be anyone online. Who the hell is Kimmer, AKA Kim Drake, AKA Heidi Diaz? For someone pushing a pay site, she sure doesn't make herself known. It's fine to get advice from people online, but before you decide to follow their lead and start buying ExLax or forum memberships, you might wanna check that they know what they're talking about. This is your health, after all. It's great that she (allegedly) lost a bunch of weight but that doesn't mean her method of doing so is healthy, and it doesn't mean she's an expert. Sure, there are lots of doctors who aren't much better when it comes to nutrition...caveat emptor applies in all cases.
Someone purporting to be a weight loss success and diet guru, and charging good people some good money for her advice, should be pretty darn open about her identity and her image. Kimmer's "before" pictures are spotty...her "after" pictures don't even resemble one another, let alone her "before" picture. All of her "after" pictures seem to be different people of different ages. Some of her website's success story pictures were proven to be of former models! Proof is in the pudge - ask for good before and after pictures, and view them with a critical eye. If someone isn't willing to share them, or shares dodgy ones, it's a red flag.
Some Kimkins followers are now saying that they don't care who she is or isn't - the diet works. Kee-rist, people, this person could be anyone. She may or may not have even lost weight. She could be a bipolar Moonie shut-in married to a donkey and living in a motel with her mother's corpse. Or something weirder, like Dean Ornish.
Super Smart Diet Tip 2: Don't be lazy There's this amazing new thing out called the internet. It contains information on just about anything you can think of. There's this other new thing called Google that lets you type in what you want to know and then finds answers for you.
If someone is making claims like Kimmer's "new studies have shown that laxatives aren't addictive", you can - yes! - actually search for yourself. You can usually find actual studies, and even READ them! Wow! Sure, it takes a wee bitta work on your part. Learn to like doing a wee bitta work. If you're happy to let other people do your research (and, therefore, your thinking) for you, you'd better also be happy to own the result, no matter what it is. Don't let anyone relieve you of duty in your own life. Don't just follow orders. Think critically, research on your own, and then make your choices. "But Kimmer said so" is a lazy cop out.
Super Smart Diet Tip 3: What's in a name? I get that people like guidelines and rules. Guidelines and rules are extremely helpful, especially at first when you're making big changes. But jeezum crow, people! Why do we always have to be doing a thing? Why do we feel better when what we're doing has an official name, book and website? Low-carbing, once you know the basics, is a matter of figuring out what works for you. Even Dr. A said so. You start out following the plan, then you tweak and fiddle til you find what fits your lifestyle and health. That may mean you do the plan as written, it may mean you add some stuff or take away some stuff. It's not a diet - it's a Way Of Eating/Way Of Life (WOE/WOL).
This is what Kimmer did, after all. She took a little Atkins, a little Stillmans, futzed around, and made a modified version that suited her. Big whoop! I eat low-carb paleo...should I call it Cavekins and charge you money to hear about my little mods? I think we get far too enmeshed in the sense of belonging and identity that can come along with a diet plan.
Super Smart Diet Tip 4: Don't be a rat The Pied Piper played his, uh, pipe thingy, and led the rats of Hamelin (and later, its children) to their deaths. The takeaway, in this context, is that you shouldn't follow someone just because they're playing a tune you like.
Kimkins promises all the things you want to hear about weight loss: quick and easy. For many, that was all it took. And her claims of weight loss sealed the deal. Suddenly, people were rushing to her for advice on things that they could have easily looked up for themselves (see Tip 2, people). Suddenly, she was an expert. Why? Because she said she lost a shitload of weight doing xyz. No-one asked for proof - she was playing their tune. Still is. 'Nuff said.
Sometimes, we're so desperate to just LOSE the WEIGHT that we forget to pay attention. We forget that we're worth more than a quick fix. We forget that our health and our well-being and our souls matter more. We get single minded, obsessive. Some people know this. Some people will take advantage.
I don't think Kimmer, whoever she is, meant any harm. I think she thought she was doing a good thing. But don't we all? It's perception, after all. I don't think anyone sits around twirling their moustache and cackling while they plot to destroy the world; people, even "evil" people, act because they believe they're doing the "right" thing. It's just that their idea of "right" is totally fucked.
Super Smart Diet Tip 5: Check the price tag Some people have defended Kimmer's membership fee by pointing out that she spent a lot of time on the (free) message board answering questions (or conducting market research, but I might just be cynical). My reply? The Drs. Eades both run blogs in which they answer reader questions. For free. And they're doctors. Busy ones. Who know what they're talking about. Dr. Barry Groves runs an excellent site in which he provides, for free, a multitude of information about diet and nutrition. The Weston A. Price Foundation, a non-profit organization, charges for membership but also provides a wealth of information online - for free. And people operate and moderate boards like lowcarb.org and lowcarbfriends.com, providing 24/7 information and support, FOR FREE.
Noticing a trend here?
I'm not arguing that people should be fairly compensated for their work. I have happily purchased books from the Drs Eades, for example. Kimmer could have put her enormous Kimkins message board thread into an ebook and sold it. But in that case, she wouldn't have made $60 a pop.
That's all I'm gonna say about Kimmer and Kimkins. Ever. If you want to know more, pick through these links - some good reading to be had!