So you’re looking to lose some weight. As you probably know, losing weight is often easier said than done. With traditional calorie counting and restrictive eating, it’s hard to stick to the diets and programs we sign up for Noom, the self-proclaimed “Weight Watchers for Millennials,” claims to be different.
Using a psychology-based approach, Noom aims to not only help you lose weight but also help you form healthy habits that help you reach your goals. Before you sign up and pay for a subscription, you want to know more. Who can blame you? Here’s everything you should know about Noom, including its pros, cons, who should use the app and who shouldn’t.
What is Noom?
Noom stepped on the scene in 2008 and is now one of the most popular weight loss apps on the market. Despite claiming not to be a dieting app, Noom uses all the self-monitoring tools of traditional diets, like calorie deficits and food entry.
However, it’s unique in a few key ways. Noom uses a psychology-based method that aims to helps you make healthy eating choices and habit changes, all in the effort to reach your goals — weight loss included. It’s about a healthier lifestyle, not just fitting into your old jeans. The jeans are a bonus, but being healthy is the real goal.
With Noom, it’s not just what you’re eating; it’s about learning healthy recipes and examining how you think about food. Noom seems more like a comprehensive wellness program that integrates diet, exercise and behavior. Now, this isn’t a new concept — Noom just packages and markets the tools better than other programs.
There aren’t any studies that investigate Noom’s effectiveness in comparison to other dieting apps. However, a study of 36,000 Noom users found that after nine months of using the app, 78% of participants lost weight, 23% of which lost more than 10% of their starting weight. That’s not enough research to get a full picture, however. There’s no data on how well people are able to maintain their new weight long-term, which is one of the biggest obstacles for dieters.
How does Noom work?
Noom considers itself a “lifestyle,” not a diet app. While I partly agree with that, Noom’s core goal is to help you lose weight.
When you sign up, you’re asked a series of questions. They’re a lot to get through, but if you answer them all, Noom has the best chance of personalizing your health plan to fit you and your goals. The questions start standard — weight, height, gender — then move into your goals and motivations. You then have the chance to set your weight loss goals and timeframes, which impacts how many calories Noom advises you to eat during your program. (The more weight you aim to lose, the more of a calorie deficit you need to maintain.)
Note that regardless of your goal weight, Noom won’t recommend a plan that is less than 1,200 calories per day for women and 1,400 calories for men. Based on online reviews (including CNET editor Shelby Brown’s own experience), it’s fairly common for Noom to recommend that bottom limit. However, 1,200 or 1,400 calories is far too low for most adults. For context, the US Food and Drug Administration only recommends such a low number of calories for a young child (and one that’s not very active, at that).
What you get in the Noom app
- Educational content. One of the ways Noom stands out is the educational content it offers. Instead of just helping you lose weight, it teaches you about nutrition and you’re prompted to reflect on your motivations and goals.
- Goal tracking. Most apps offer the option to set and track your goals. Noom also includes biometric tracking.
- Virtual coaching. With the virtual coach from Noom, you can choose how often you want to interact with them. I like this flexibility because it allows you to decide how much support you need. Note, the coaching is through a chat function, not through phone or video calls.
Not surprisingly, Noom all comes down to what you eat. Noom categorizes food into three groups: green, yellow and red. Each color signifies the caloric density of the foods within the category. Foods in the green category have the lowest caloric density and the highest level of nutrients. Conversely, red food has the highest calories and the least nutrients, like cake or chips.
Noom recommends a breakdown of 30% green foods, 45% red foods and 25% red foods. I like this because it’s more realistic than other apps. While it’s suggesting that you eat fewer foods that fall in the red category, it isn’t wholly restricting anything. Noom also has a pretty thorough list of recipes and their color breakdown. So if you’re starting from scratch, you can meal prep from the app.
How much does Noom cost?
A monthly subscription to Noom starts at $60 a month, with discounts if you purchase multiple months at once. It’s not the cheapest app on the market; in fact, there are free apps with some of the same features. That said, if you think you’ll benefit from the coaching aspects and really want to learn more about living healthy, Noom might be worth that cost.
I should mention that, at least presently, Noom is altering its prices. I can’t say how long this will last, but for the time being, you have the option to sign up for a lower price. Don’t expect this trial price to last forever, though.
When I signed up, I was prompted to buy a three-month subscription — which ended up being $129. Even if you take advantage of the lower price tag at first, a three-month sign-on isn’t preferable, especially since it was my only option on the screen. I tried to find an option for a month-by-month subscription package but couldn’t find one. The trial is only seven days long; that’s not a lot of time to decide if you like the app enough to pay $129.
After some digging (and already being subscribed for three months), I found that you can opt to buy Noom in “bulk” to cut costs. The monthly auto-renewing plan will be the most expensive option, but you can save some money by subscribing on a three, six, eight, or even annual basis.
Benefits of Noom
Overall, there are a lot of good things about Noom that stood out to me. The app itself is user-friendly, and it’s easy to sign up. Everything on the app is organized to make sense, and nothing is hard to find. If you didn’t want to use any extra features offered, you could get by just using the home page.
Doesn’t cut out food groups
A lot of diets out there rule out certain food groups. And while this might be an effective way to tip the scales in your favor, ultimately, it can lead to unhealthy eating habits. With Noom, no food groups are off-limits. Yes, food is categorized by calorie density, and there are recommendations attached to each section, but nothing is presented as untouchable. You have the flexibility and autonomy to eat what you want, even if Noom encourages you to eat less of those high-sugar or fatty foods.
Focuses on behavior, not just what you eat
In the end, it’s all about losing weight. However, the journey Noom takes you on is more holistic than that. It’s about more than just the foods you input into the tracker. Noom aims to help you establish healthy eating habits and break the bad ones. It also actively reinforces the fact that it’s OK to slip or eat something just to indulge. Noom feels more like an understanding friend and less like a drill sergeant. This could help promote long-term weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.
You learn along the way
When I first opened my Noom app and saw all the lessons that awaited me, I was hesitant. However, the lessons were helpful, and I did learn a lot. The lessons and tips provided are integral to the Noom experience. When you use Noom, you’re learning and truly thinking about the habits you have.
The lessons vary and are generally pretty quick. There’s even an option to have the app read them to you. You’ll start off pretty simple, covering things like caloric density and which foods are better for you. Then you’ll pick up helpful insights like past dieting fads and debunked food myths you shouldn’t believe.
It’s still a diet app
For all of its benefits, you can’t forget that Noom is a weight-loss app at its core. Unhealthy habits can still arise. In addition to calorie counting and food tracking, the app encourages you to weigh yourself each morning, another common dieting technique. It might seem harmless and even necessary to track progress, but it’s also easy to fixate on and could lead to disordered eating.
Studies have shown that self-weighing can be connected to lower levels of self-esteem and lower body satisfaction. I’m not saying that weighing yourself each day means you’ll definitely experience these things; it’s just something to watch out for. The scale isn’t the only representation of the process made.
Low calorie recommendations
Noom’s low calorie recommendations are one of its most concerning cons. If you do sign up and receive a low calorie “budget,” it’s worth getting a second opinion from a trusted doctor, dietitian or nutritionist before you start restricting any foods.
It’s not cheap
Another thing to consider is the price. Noom isn’t the cheapest option out there at $45 a month. Noom offers a lot more in terms of education than other programs, so if you’re interested in a holistic approach to your health, then the price might not be that scary. For someone who just wants an app that tracks their steps and food intake, the advanced features Noom offers aren’t likely worth the money.
If you thrive in the digital space, then this one won’t phase you. But for those who like the accountability and relationship of a personal trainer or gym partner, the fact that Noom is virtual might be an issue. It’s completely technology-dependent. You can register online, but everything else is on the app. So you’re required to access and track everything on your phone or tablet.
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The bottom line
I like Noom for its virtual coaching features and educational content. Yes, it’s a dieting app, but if you commit to using Noom to its total capacity, then you’ll get more than just weight loss. All in all, Noom is a potentially healthful app, but it will only work If you stick with it. Ultimately it’s still on you to commit to healthy living; Noom can only do so much.
Who it’s good for
- People looking for more than just a dieting app. You’ll like Noom’s educational features that are geared towards a healthy lifestyle.
- People who need a virtual coach to keep them on track.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.