- Noom’s weight management app intends to help people view food, exercise, and weight loss in a way that allows them to stick with the diet long-term.
- Though I’m often skeptical of gimmicky social media ads, Noom seemed different when I came across mention of the app in my feed.
- Instead of enticing potential users with a miracle weight-loss fix, Noom’s goal is to be honest about weight management and how education and accountability can lead to positive changes in your lifestyle.
I came across the Noom weight management app as an ad in my social media feed. Though I was instantly intrigued, it wasn’t for the reason the app likely intended. As a rule, I’m turned off by gimmicky, ultra-rigid diet plans and programs that prey on people looking for a quick fix – think pills, shakes, frozen meal plans, point systems, and detox teas.
Noom seemed starkly different. It’s not an overnight miracle you ingest instead of legitimate meals but rather a lifestyle app that helps you manage weight through education and accountability. That premise alone is different than most any other diet app.
In the past, I’ve lost roughly 60 pounds in a year through portion control and consistent exercise; I know what works for me. And while I’ve managed to keep most of it off in the last five years, some weight crept up on me. I signed up for Noom because I was looking for accountability and a way to track my progress to hit my health goals. Here’s my experience.
Noom reframes your views on a healthy lifestyle
What enticed me about Noom, specifically, was that the program relies on the necessary ingredients for weight loss – looking at what you eat and how much you move – while also tying in a psychological component and daily accountability.
Once you sign up for the program and pay the $59 monthly fee, the app asks for a bit of personal information, as well as a weight goal and a few other personal goals. You’ll then be connected with a weight loss coach and begin an educational journey that covers everything from mindful eating to identifying goal-disrupting triggers.
Each day has about five to 10 minutes of reading and quizzes, with the goal of reconfiguring the way you think about food and exercise. You’ll also interact with a health coach along the way. Though initial interactions do seem generated and by-the-book, it gets more personalized as you get deeper into the program.
In addition to the reading and coaching, you’re also prompted to weigh yourself daily, log your food intake, and input any exercise you complete outside of walking. Steps are logged for you via a smartphone or step tracker and are factored in accordingly.
Ultimately, the goal of Noom is to help you reframe the way you think about food, exercise, and weight management in a way that translates to lifelong change versus a fad diet.
An expert’s take
Since I’m merely an everyday person using the app, I wanted to reach out to a few experts to discuss the potential pros and cons of using Noom to manage weight.
Noom’s 1:1 coaching platform and education program surrounding our relationship with food is what sets the app apart. It also provides accountability without the stress of a group weigh-in.
“If you’re having trouble sticking to the protocols, investing in this app provides gentle reminders and daily feedback that keeps you motivated to get to your goals,” Sameera Khan, a physician assistant, obesity expert dietician, nutritionist, and author told Business Insider. “Instead of giving up [when you falter], the Noom coach helps you plan specific steps to get things back on track.”
You’ll receive notifications throughout the day that remind to you weigh yourself, take a quiz, or track your food. Seeing as how we look at our phones all day, it’ll be virtually impossible to forget to do these things, so they’ll help keep your goals front of mind.
Khan added, “Nudges to track make you aware of any poor food choices along with the trigger that causes you to make those choices. Once you identify the trigger, you can try to eliminate it by responding in a better way.”
Not just a glorified calorie counter
Noom puts foods into three categories: green for vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; yellow for lean meats and cheese; and red for red meats and sweets. The app then sets an allowance for each group and though it doesn’t restrict you from having a certain type of food, it does prioritize raw and lean foods while deprioritizing things like sweets and carbs.
Basic weight loss tenets
The idea of easy weight loss via a shake, pill, tea, or packaged food program may sound nice but it’s not sustainable. Noom relies on the core principles of weight loss that allow you to remain successful for the rest of your life.
The coaches aren’t experts
“You’re not working with a medical expert who can medically diagnose, provide scientific-based nutrition, or properly refer to another clinician in the medical field when something is clinically suspected and out of their scope,” Dr. Cynthia Barrett, a doctor of physical therapy and certified nutrition specialist, told Business Insider.
Severe calorie restrictions
You can adjust your calorie budget within the app but the default is roughly 1,200 for every user, no matter their height or current weight. According to Khan, this may be too restrictive
“There is a misconception floating around that anybody who is a certain height or has a certain goal weight can eat anything they want and still lose weight, as long as they don’t exceed 1,200 calories a day. These individuals are a minority, are usually sedentary, and are already at a low body weight.”
Your BMR gives you a more accurate calorie goal.
Food tracker is clunky to use
The chief complaint among Noom users is that the food logging system isn’t entirely user-friendly. It sometimes doesn’t save the foods you’ve listed, calorie counts can be wrong, and you sometimes can’t find the food you want to log.
An annoying app but Noom gets results
After speaking with the experts, I decided to try Noom for myself. I know my body and what it takes for me to actually lose weight, so I went into Noom with the expectations of accountability and education; I’m smart enough to understand that no app or pill can help you lose weight overnight.
I dusted off the scale, set my personal goals, and did my best to stick to the low 1,200 calorie count. Ultimately, I felt 1,200 was far too low, especially with my rigorous workout regimen three times a week. Caloric budget can be increased slightly when you log exercise, so I went ahead and adjusted mine to a range between 1,500 and 1,700 which felt much better.
Regarding the prompts, I sometimes found myself annoyed because I was always playing catch-up at the end of the day to fill in what I ate. I think this was due to the fact I found the calorie logger clunky and often inaccurate, so I had to get creative with my inputs.
That said, I did enjoy the daily reading and quizzes, which is truly what you’re paying for in addition to the 1:1 coaching. There was often some sort of takeaway I found valuable.
After two months, I lost 10 pounds using the Noom app. This may not seem like a lot to some people but it is to me. Not only was it a reasonable goal for me personally but I was able to develop healthier habits and, ultimately, a healthier lifestyle.
I stopped paying for the app after two months and now only use the free version that includes everything except for the 1:1 coaching, education, and quizzes. The app is a bit expensive at $59 a month but I also decided that I had learned what I needed to continue reaching my goals.
Who’s right for Noom?
I wouldn’t recommend the app to anyone who’s struggled with disordered eating since it may be triggering, or to anyone who has (or suspects) a medical issue tied to their weight. In such cases, working with a medical professional is ideal.
That said, I would recommend the Noom app to someone who wants to address weight loss with a slow, methodical approach that relies on accountability and retraining how you think about food and exercise. Talk with your doctor first before trying Noom, since you aren’t speaking with a medical expert in the app and everyone’s bodies and needs are vastly different.
The bottom line
Noom takes a different approach than most current diet programs in that it isn’t trying to sell a cure-all diet but instead a change in one’s lifestyle through education and accountability. Between food tracking, personal coaching, a useful (yet annoying) app, and daily notifications to keep you honest, Noom puts the power of true weight management in your hands.
There are a few drawbacks, however. First, it’s expensive at $59 per month, though after getting a feel for the app and adapting to a new lifestyle, the free version can suffice. Also, it’s experts and coaches aren’t medical professionals. This isn’t a dealbreaker but something to keep in mind that they won’t be able to give you legitimate medical advice should a problem arise.
None of those nitpicks are enough to not recommend Noom to anyone wanting a change in their diet habits. It not only helped me lose weight but taught me how to maintain a healthier lifestyle.
- Should you buy it? If you want a diet plan that focuses on education and a healthy lifestyle change, then yes. Noom doesn’t advertise itself as a miracle diet, and that’s a good thing. It offers users the resources and education they need to not only work toward losing weight but to adopt a healthier lifestyle capable of keeping that weight off.
- What are your alternatives? There are various other weight management apps from brands like Weight Watchers or Fooducate, which offer weight loss solutions for anyone on a budget (WW) or for those who enjoy cooking at home (Fooducate).
Pros: 1:1 personalized coaching, not just a calorie counter, daily notifications keep you accountable, it gets real results and helps you positively change your food habits
Cons: Coaches aren’t medical professionals, expensive monthly cost