As I've said before, I try to stay away from blogging about Internet trainwrecks. But sometimes, one of them gets under my skin and I have to say something. And this isn't even just an Internet trainwreck; it's a full-blown fraud, in my opinion. More after the jump, if you're interested. And believe me -- even though this entry is long, there's a lot I've left out.
In March, I was featured on WL-Tips.com. There's a stats tracker at the bottom of that page and because I have an ego the size of a small planet, I clicked on it to see who was visiting my page. I noticed several search strings for the "Kimkins diet." Kimmer, the founder of that diet, had a profile on WL-Tips as well, so I took a look at her page. Note the "after" shot. Nice, right?
(Update, 9/29: Kimmer's page has been scrubbed from WL-Tips, as have two of the three other interviews with dieters who followed Kimkins. The one interview that remains, Christin's, has been heavily rewritten, as Christin has had some serious health complications and regrets following Kimkins.)
From the start I smelled more than a whiff of "too good to be true" about her story. I rolled my eyes at her anti-exercise attitude, and I raised an eyebrow at her claim that Jessica Alba was a Kimkins fan. But hey; the before/after photos looked impressive. And people have to do what's best for them, right? I forgot about Kimmer for the moment.
A few months later, I looked at my WL-Tips interview again. This time there was a Kimkins web ad at the bottom of the page with before/after images of Kimmer. I took one look and said "That woman in the 'after' picture is NOT the same woman who was in the other 'after' shot." (ETA, 10/11/07: I was right. The "after" photo in question was taken from a Russian mail-order bride site (it's the shot on the left), as were a majority of the so-called "success stories" that used to be on the Kimkins site.)
My curiosity piqued, I started Googling around about the diet, wondering if anyone else had noticed the same thing. They sure had; there was already a groundswell of skepticism on several low-carb forums. Kimmer, real name Heidi Diaz, had visited several boards and left a lot of bad feelings in her wake. She also had the odd habit of looking like an entirely different person in every "after" photo. However, Kimmer also had a lot of fans, including at least one very high-profile low-carb blogger (who later recanted) and dozens of affiliates. In fact, she'd opened a pay site where, for $60, you could join her forums, get coaching and support from admins and other members, and get access to the illustrious Kimmer herself.
And Kimkins had just been written up in Woman's World magazine. I checked out the official Kimkins site, which by all accounts was doing runaway business after the Woman's World story. The more I looked, the more absurd this whole thing became. There were the "success stories" where the before/after shots were clearly two different people. (Or, perhaps, the same person but with the order obviously reversed.) And what was up with all the "before/afters" that were extreme closeups of faces, so that you couldn't even see the bodies to see if there had been a weight change? Come on -- even those scammy "Lose 30 Pounds in 10 Minutes!" ads in tabloids have enough sense to use full-body shots, badly airbrushed and fake though they may be.
Most damning of all to me was Kimmer's steadfast refusal to provide more "after" shots of herself. She didn't care if people believed her or not; she didn't have to prove anything to anyone. If her site and her advice had been free, I'd agree. But when you're expecting people to cough up $60 a pop for your advice, and a big part of your marketing hook is your own amazing 200-pound loss that you've maintained for five years, you kinda should be willing to show some proof. I can't speak for anyone else, but for me, maintaining weight loss is harder than losing the weight in the first place. I was starting to suspect that Kimmer still looked an awful lot like her Before shots. At least those photos all looked like the same woman.
Okay, Nicole -- someone's obviously making misleading claims about a weight loss program. Wow, how incredibly unprecedented and shocking, except not so much. What's the big deal?
The big deal is this: Before Kimmer opened her pay site, she'd been hanging out on a low-carb forum where she dispensed advice for free, until something made her mad and she flounced. Naturally, other posters clamored to know how she'd lost all that weight (without exercise!) so they could emulate her.
I apologize for my language, but the advice this woman was giving was fucking reprehensible on so many levels, and I understand that her paid forum was more of the same. (I'm not going to give plan specifics because I'm damned if I'm passing her plan along, even to condemn it.) It was as if the hate-filled voice that lived in my head when I was bulimic had escaped from my brain, grown a body, and was now teaching legions of desperate admirers how to starve themselves, abuse laxatives, and hate themselves. The more I read, the angrier I got.
What do you mean, you couldn't fast? Kimmer fasted on nothing but Diet Coke for days, all the time, and she didn't even miss food after the first day! And doctors prescribe laxatives, so it must be fine to take them every day. Did you feel "slightly nauseous all the time" (a condition she gave the cutesy acronym "SNATT")? Great! You were doing it right! And no wonder the bitch was anti-exercise; if I were trying to survive on less than 500 calories a day as she and so many of her followers claimed to do, I'd be lucky to have the energy to roll over and turn off my alarm clock in the morning.
Her advice was an eating disorder waiting to happen. And then she set up shop and started charging money for it.
I imagine my poor, bulimic, bewildered, screwed-up self in college. What if I'd somehow stumbled across a group run by some beautiful thin lady who kept telling me that all the awful things I was doing to myself to lose weight were good?
As I write this, the Kimkins story appears to be grinding to its predictable and depressing conclusion. Last week, a blogger whose wife was once Kimmer's business partner posted surveillance photos a private investigator took of Kimmer. Even though the idea that someone had actually done this creeped me out more than a little, I had to look at the pictures.
Let's just say that I can certainly understand why she never wanted to post current photos of herself. Ahem. Kimmer's excuse for this one was a marvel of gallsy bullshit: she claimed that while those pictures were indeed of Heidi Diaz, she herself wasn't Heidi! Poor spied-on Heidi was one of her employees. (This is, of course, more crap. But hey, who's counting by now?)
She's been pulling parts of the site down, including the page introducing her staff; her admins have apparently been resigning almost as quickly as she can hire new ones. (Huzzah for the ones who've gotten out of that mess.) She's also banning any Kimkins members who voice doubts about her, whether on the official forum or elsewhere. I give it a few weeks at most before the site brings up a 404 Not Found page, and good riddance.
I suspect this entry is the equivalent of me yelling "FIRE!" after the house has already burned to the ground. But if I'm wrong and if Kimkins somehow survives all this ... I'm begging anyone tempted to do it: Don't. You deserve so much better than this. As I mentioned earlier, I did some very similar things to myself in college, when I was bulimic. I got down to 118 pounds. I also screwed up my menstrual cycle and my digestive system thanks to laxative abuse. But hey, at least I was thin! Only that didn't last ... ten years later, I was a size 26 and looked just like the "before" shots of me all over this journal.
Think that won't happen to you? Think again. If nothing else, doesn't it give you at least a little bit of pause that the so-called creator of this diet lied about just about everything there is to lie about? She didn't slim down to 118 pounds. Those pretty women in the after pictures weren't her. Many of the "success stories" were fake. On what authority can anyone keep bleating "This diet really works!"? You don't seriously want to put your life in the hands of a person like that, do you?
At least I didn't suffer any long-term damage to my health from the awful regimen I'd put myself on. Even though the process has been tough and demanding this time around and doesn't get any easier, I have to consider myself lucky. I'm worth the hard work; I deserve better than a quick fix that creates more problems than it solves.
So do you.