I found an article by Barry Beyerstein (professor of neuropsychology at Simon Fraser University in Canada) describing cults and wanted to see how this compares to kimkins. My comments are in blue.
Who is vulnerable to cult recruitment?
- We all are at some time in our lives. Most of us satisfy the foregoing needs within our normal range of relationships and this gives us a certain amount of protection, as long as we stay within that framework. Scary, but probably true. I'm glad I found my "framework" on a free site with a group of people I trust and feel comfortable with.
- Cult recruits are not any more likely to be mentally ill, less intelligent, or less well educated than the average population. This is very evident from the wide variety of smart people that at one time were kimkins members or followed kimmer on other boards.
- Nor are they necessarily more gullible on average. They do tend, however, to be “seekers,” constantly looking for pat answers and magical solutions for personal or societal problems. Many of the members and followers are highly intelligent and educated people. The idea with a diet is to lose weight, so the "looking for answers" certainly applies as well. If we can lose it "magically" (easy), so much the better.
- They are often driven to find answers (any answer) to the great metaphysical questions, rather than live with uncertainty. Those who have a higher tolerance for ambiguity can live with the acceptance that such things are ultimately unknowable. Ha, how to achieve weight loss sometimes does feel like a metaphysical question!
How can we recognize a cult?
A fair use of the cult label for a questionable organization would require the presence of most of the items on the following checklist.
Does the group:
- engage in deceptive recruitment practices? (recruiters typically disguise the true nature and aims of the group when seeking converts) Fake before/afters, fake story and pictures in Woman's World, fake success stories, illegal spamming on the internet on craigslist, yahoo. The list can go on....
- tend to target vulnerable individuals, as outlined above? "Better than gastric bypass"! Obese and even sligthly overweight women are an easy target - society pressure takes care of that.
- offer unconditional affirmation and support initially, but soon make its continuance contingent on obedience? The admins are there to greet all newbies, and to remove any complaining posts. You better never question the diet or the founder or you lose your "privileges" to access the board at all.
- have a closed social system that makes a special effort to isolate acolytes from family, friends, etc.? Member-only website. When somebody states that family and friends are complaining that they are not eating enough, they are told that family and friends are wrong or jealous.
- use constant bombardment with pro-group and pro-leader messages and exclusion of other messages? Newsletter every 3 weeks or so.
- have a rigid, authoritarian hierarchy? Kimmer can not be questioned or contradicted. The new admins follow suit and quickly removes any negative posts.
- have a leader and ruling clique that are perceived to possess infallible insight, supernatural powers, etc.? Do they claim to have been chosen by some higher authority to rule, and thus to be excused from the normal social restrictions on one’s behavior? Kimmer lost an "amazing 198 pounds in 11 months!" - something the average dieter can just dream about. Kimmer has made numerous statements as how she avoids paying debts (student loans) as she is "judgement proof (LOL)".
- have an eclectic, often muddled and internally contradictory, set of teachings - usually a magic-laden philosophy that claims to have infallible answers to those “big ticket” questions of existence? Initially, there was no diet recommendations, more than basically "eat less" and "avoid fats". These guidelines were supported by unopposed statements such as: "Starvation mode does not exist, look at how WLS patients eat", "You can not starve as long as you have fat on your body", combined with indiviual coaching to cut down on calories. Now, new admins have muddled the waters even further by introducing new plans that neither are defined, nor support the original teachings.
- have a strict behavior code that governs all aspects of how one should think, feel, and act? Are there strong penalties for deviation? Any opinion not in line with Kimmer results in an immediate banning, without warning. Some former members have expressed how lost they felt when they were outed and could not longer "talk" to their support group.
- instill fear of outsiders (the “bunker mentality”)? Does the group try to convince members they are powerless to act without the group’s support and that the world “out there” is uncaring and hostile? The much used expression HATERS for non-kimkins followers comes to mind.
- engage in major forms of exploitation (e.g., financial, occupational, or sexual - of self, spouse, or children)? $60 membership fee.
- demand immoral, unethical, or illegal activity on the part of its members? To solicit reviews for the BBB is both immoral and unethical. To have member spy on other members, or admins on other admins, is unethical in my book. To collect money for non-exisitent foster kids is all of the above. (The member, Tippy Toes, that was in charge of the collections was likely not aware of the fraud at the time, but as she has chosen to align herself as and employee and support kimkins after there has been PROOF of the fraud, she might now be considered legally implicated as well.)
Who starts a cult?
Some cult leaders are unequivocally psychopaths and con-artists, but others spring from more complex roots. There often appears in their backgrounds some kind of serious psychological crisis that they have surmounted by interpreting it as a special calling to some higher purpose. Even those gurus who start out believing they are on an inspired mission to improve the lives of others usually succumb to the seductions of unbridled adoration and privilege, resulting ultimately in disaster. From what we have learned about Heidi Diaz/kimmer, this is a very accurate description of her. She started out at a "guru" on a public board, created a following and decided to cash in on it.
For more information, click on the links.