Noom Diet Review: The Millennial Weight Loss App
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be on Noom? Wonder no more: I took one for the team and signed myself up.
Welcome to my Noom diet review.
What is Noom?
Noom is a weight loss app that targets tech-obsessed Millennials. It’s completely online, and the program combines standard diet procedure aka tracking food with a behavior change component to help users lose weight and change their habits for the long-term.
We know weight loss is super-tough to achieve for anyone, especially with a myopic focus on just the number on the scale. In my experience, being overweight is seldom about the food; it’s more about our relationship with eating and ourselves. I was curious to see how Noom addresses this side of weight loss better than Weight Watchers (or WW, as it’s now called) or any of the other old-school diets.
Noom is definitely all about weight loss: unlike other programs *ahem WW ahem* it doesn’t pretend to be only about ‘wellness’.
How Much Does Noom Cost?
When I had signed up, it cost $200 USD a year, not including tax.
How Does Noom Work?
Onboarding includes questions about thing they get your goal weight, motivation levels, previous diets and activity levels, if you have diabetes, if you’ve been on antibiotics in the past two years (?), how busy you are in your daily life, and other relevant stuff like if you cook, or eat in restaurants more often. One thing I noticed is that they don’t ask about is history of eating disorders, but more on that later.
Once I entered all of my info and (made-up) goal to lose 10lb, Noom assigned me a calorie level – 1200 per day – and a coach. Unlike most ‘coaches’ who work for diet programs, Noom’s coaches must complete the ‘core lifestyle coach training’ at ‘Noomiversity’ which is recognized by the International Consortium for Health and Wellness Training. They also have weekly trainings and must have a bachelor’s or associates degree in a related area like nutrition or personal coaching, plus 2000 hours of experience.
Although it’s not to the level of an RD, that’s quite a step up from other diet program ‘coaches’, whose experience generally ranges from none to ‘I lost some weight’.
Is Noom Right For You?
Two big components of Noom are the daily weights and the tracking of everything you eat.
I’m not against either of these things if they work for you, but I’ve found that for a large number of people (including myself), this approach is too labor intensive. It also can be triggering for people who are at risk for disordered eating or who have a history of obsessive behavior. This is where I have to say that if you are at risk for disordered eating or have a history of disordered eating that’s triggered by tracking and weighing, DO NOT DO THIS PROGRAM.
It’s important to note that day-to-day weight fluctuations of up to 5lb are normal, and they don’t necessarily mean that you’re not ‘on track’. If you’re going to weigh yourself, I’d recommend doing it less often to get a more accurate picture of where you’re really at.
While Noom has a ton of positive reviews and even some positive research behind it, I’ve heard some people complain that the program sends a ton of daily reading. To be honest, it wasn’t that much, and I thought it was pretty good stuff. I had articles about building my ‘frustration tolerance’ – being able to work through short-term discomfort for long-term goals; thought distortions and battling negative thoughts; types of eating (ie do I eat for comfort, etc.); conquering cravings, and other interesting and applicable topics.
The literature was easy to understand, and depending on some of the choices you select within the pages, it’s tailored to you. It’s not mandatory to read, either. Here’s a screenshot of a typical piece of reading material you’ll receive:
Every day, Noom sets you up with a checklist: a few educational and motivational reads, a weigh-in reminder, a meal logging reminder, and a test to review things you’ve learned in the previous days. Everything is light and fun, with cute graphics and easy-to-complete structure.
This is one of my checklists:
My coach was very sweet and helpful, happily answering all of my questions about her experience and about the program. I was posing as an actual user, but when I had trouble with some aspects of the program, she was right there with solutions. For example, I wanted to see if I could get around the weighing and tracking part of Noom, since a lot of people just find it triggering.
My coach wisely responded that while weighing and tracking are meant to be beneficial to me, I should stop doing them if they don’t feel that way. Good answer! She then went on to ask what I thought a more positive routine would look like for me. I loved how she turned my situation around to let me talk out solutions with her, instead of just telling me what to do.
One thing I didn’t like was when I asked my coach what I could do about the low calorie level the app assigned to me. 1200 calories is starvation for me (and for most people), and even when I adjusted things, my max calorie allowance was 1350 per day. ACK.
In response, my coach told me that when I exercise, I get those calories back in my allowance, so that will give me some wiggle room.
I then pressed her about the concept of doing exercise for a ‘food reward’, because essentially that’s what was going on here. You know from my previous writings that exercising to burn food off is never a good idea, because your body just doesn’t work that way.
She told me that the extra calories you get from exercise are to refuel after working out, not to reward yourself with food, which is never a good plan. Still, the ‘making up’ of calories by exercise is not a healthy way of looking at food and how the body works. Here’s part of the convo:
Noom categorizes foods into Green, Yellow, and Red categories, based on their caloric density. This is somewhat of a good approach, but it means that some nourishing foods such as nuts and nut butters land in the Red group beside cake because they’re higher in calories for their serving sizes. That being said, Noom is about balance, so it recommends a 30-45-25 split between Green, Yellow, and Red foods. They also make it clear that ‘Green’ doesn’t mean ‘good’ and Red doesn’t mean ‘bad’.
Still, I’m on the fence about the categorization of foods because people will invariably link ‘Red’ foods to ‘Danger’ or ‘Bad’.
What I Liked About Noom
I liked that Noom gets the psychological aspects of eating. They don’t just toss you a meal plan and some supplements and tell you to get started. They work on the behavior change aspect of weight loss and help you understand WHY you’re eating, then give you solutions to manage those ‘whys’.
My coach knew her stuff and responded quickly to my messages. Noom’s coaching requirements are more stringent than most, which is good; if you’re going to be coaching other people on their nutrition and you’re not an RD, you should at least have some relevant training.
The content was very easy to read and very actionable. While some people complain about the amount of reading, none of it is mandatory, and it’s all short and fun. It’s also tailored to your concerns.
You don’t have to buy supplements, special meals, or fancy foods. Love. Thank you Noom for realizing that losing weight does not need to include any of the above.
What I Didn’t Like About Noom
The program is pretty full-on. There’s no starting slowly; you’re either in or you’re out. A friend of mine quit after a few weeks because she got overwhelmed. We all have different tolerance levels for making changes, and if you’re a slow and steady sort of person, Noom might hit you like a ton of bricks. By the same token, if you work with an RD (and no, I’m not trying to drum up business), you have the advantage of going at your own pace and making the changes you want to make, when you want to make them. However, working with an RD isn’t something that’s accessible to everyone, whether because of cost or any number of other factors, so we need to acknowledge that.
While the program asked a couple of rudimentary questions about medical history, it never asked about history of eating disorders. Even when I tried to trigger a red flag by putting in a crazy low goal weight for my height, Noom just accepted it. I also tried to check ‘other’ in medical history and it didn’t prompt me for more info. This program is NOT for people who have or have had eating disorders, or who are triggered by weighing and tracking food. No way.
Noom is a 16-week program, and I didn’t take it for that long, but I’m told that there’s really no maintenance component.
The daily weights and tracking. Some people benefit from those things, many do not. That being said, no one program works for everyone, so Noom will be fine for people who like to track everything. I’m wondering though how sustainable it will be for people over the long-term, but then again, maybe after a while you don’t have to track everything or weigh yourself daily.
The categorization of foods can work, but Noom should change the color coding because ‘Red’ generally is synonymous with ‘Bad’.
You don’t ‘make up’ calories with exercise, and thinking this way can mess up your relationship with food and activity. I don’t know why tracking apps do this instead of just assigning a more realistic calorie goal to users.
It’s expensive. Noom discount codes are easy to find online, and I got two weeks free. I think though that if you don’t have access to an RD, and you enjoy tracking, this program is well worth the money.
My Final Thoughts on Noom
Held up against its competitors in the commercial weight loss industry, Noom comes out on top. It’s definitely better than any of the Thrive/Isagenix/Juice Plus/Arbonne crap that stuffs you full of supplements and bullshit ‘nutrition’ recommendations delivered by unqualified ‘coaches’.
I don’t say this lightly, but Noom is pretty much the only program I’ve ever reviewed that I actually like…for the most part.
Do NOT try Noom if you have a risk of or have had any sort of disordered eating in your life that is triggered by tracking and weighing.