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When it comes to losing weight, it typically requires you to put in some extra effort to get in more exercise and switch up what you eat. This often means choosing a diet that can give you some structure. Two that are buzzing online right now are Noom and WW (formerly Weight Watchers). They have their own unique food tracking systems and special features, but share some similarities. So, what are the pros and cons of Noom versus Weight Watchers?
Both have been around for a while. While Noom was founded in 2008 (and the app only launched in 2016), WW actually launched back in 1963. They are touted as successful weight loss tools. One thing they have in common? You don't have to cut out anything on either eating plan—they're more about cutting back on quantity and shifting your mindset around food.
"Both of them are based on this principle that no food is off-limits," explains New York City-based nutritionist Samantha Cassetty, RD. "They're both aimed at helping to steer you towards healthier foods, but also are flexible about including the foods that you like."
Read on to learn more about the differences between Noom and WW, including cost and the services included, and which program is better for getting to your goals, according to dietitians.
What is WW?
What it is: WW remains one of the most popular weight loss programs in the world, and it was ranked the fourth best overall diet by U.S. News. WW uses a points system and community network to boost accountability.
How it works: When you sign up, you'll take an assessment to answer questions about your eating habits, food preferences, lifestyle, and activity level. From there you'll be assigned a program by color (blue, green, or purple) and be given a personalized amount of SmartPoints to help monitor what you're putting in your body.
Every food and beverage is assigned a point value based on its nutrition content. So you'll track breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks every day. The key is to stay within you daily SmartPoints goals. But each plan—blue, green, and purple—factors in extra weekly points if you need them (in case you need a little wiggle room!). Some foods are even considered zero points, meaning you can eat them in any amount.
Easy-to-use trackers. You can log food, water, and physical activity all in the same place in the app. Plus, the program offers an integrated barcode scanner so that you can easily know how many points are in your cart while shopping.
Recipes. There are thousands of recipes on the app that you can filter by dietary needs and prep time. And WW also has a partnership with Blue Apron to make at-home cooking that much easier.
Fitness. You'll have access to free workouts on the app, and WW has partnerships with fitness companies like Aaptiv, an audio instruction program that offers no-equipment exercise sessions designed specifically with WW users in mind.
Community. Because WW has been around for so long, its network both on social media and IRL is huge. You can attend meetings and workshops in your area or receive live coaching through the app.
What is Noom?
What it is: While Noom may be the newcomer, it claims to be the “last weight-loss program you’ll ever need,” according to the website. Noom doesn't just focus on recording your dietary intake and counting calories, it also aims to address behavioral changes and psychology around dieting and weight loss.
How it works: Once you download Noom, you'll be asked if the app can access your smartphone’s Health app, which it will use to log how much you're eating and moving throughout the day. You'll be given a recommended calorie level per day, and the app will rate foods on a scale from green to yellow to red (or the least to the most calorically dense). You'll be encouraged to do daily weigh-ins to stay on target.
There's also an educational component. The app also checks in on your mental state by asking you to rate your motivation level, and it provides lessons on how to create healthy habits. (And pay attention because you could get quizzed on them afterward!) The brand also recently launched the Noom Mood program, a 16-week curriculum that helps you build resilience to stress, plus one-on-one coaching,
Education. You'll get lessons throughout the week about topics that could impact your weight loss journey, including nutrition, stress management, and goal setting.
Live coaching. Need a little boost to keep going? Tap your Noom health and wellness or accountability coach for a helping hand.
Tracking. You'll be able to log all of your meals, snacks, and daily exercise, and you'll also be able to keep an eye on other important health measures like blood sugar and pressure.
How much does each program cost?
WW: There are different types of memberships you can choose from on WW. Here's a quick rundown.
The Digital plan costs about $20 a month and gives you access to the app, along with tracking capabilities, fitness and recipe guides, and a social platform to chat with fellow WW members.
The Digital 360 Plan goes for about $29.95 per month, which includes WW's PersonalPoints™ Program, 24/7 live coaching, and private one-on-one coaching.
The Workshop + Digital plan is about $45 per month (prices may vary by region). You'll get everything in the digital plan, plus in-person coaching sessions with other local members.
The Personal Coaching + Digital plan will run you $59.95. This will include all the digital perks and a weekly phone call with a WW coach instead of meetings.
Noom: You can do a seven-day free trial if you’d like to test it out before diving in. Noom really only offers one basic plan at $59 a month, so it's a tad pricier than WW. But you can save by committing to a longer plan up front.
Monthly auto-recurring plan: $59
Two-month auto-recurring plan: $99
Four-month auto-recurring plan: $129
Six-month auto-recurring plan: $149
Eight-month auto-recurring plan: $159
Annual auto-recurring plan: $199
If you also sign up for the new Noom Mood program, it is a four-month auto-renewing plan for $149.
How do you log food on WW and Noom?
On WW: With Weight Watchers, you're going to count and log by SmartPoints. Everything has a corresponding SmartPoint value. But the healthiest options (think: certain fruits and veggies) are considered zero-point foods. You'll be given a personalized SmartPoint budget based on your initial assessment and weight loss goals and be assigned to one of three plans—purple, green, or blue.
The Purple plan offers over 300 zero-point foods (win!), but you'll also have the lowest number of total daily points.
The Green plan gives you a little over 100 zero-point foods, but the highest number of daily points.
The Blue plan is right in the middle, offering 200 zero-point foods and an average number of daily points.
On Noom: Remember, Noom is focused on both weight loss and education. So in between logging you'll also be given daily tasks, usually short articles to read about nutrition, mindfulness, or other holistic aspects of dieting. And instead of assigning point values to individual foods, Noom groups foods into three categories, arranged from least to most calorically dense. Your goal? Eat what you want, but stay within your given calorie limit by consuming mainly green and yellow foods.
Green foods: This includes vegetables (broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots) and fruits (blueberries, apples, bananas), plus other low-caloric density foods like egg whites, whole-grain bread, and quinoa. You should prioritize these in your diet.
Red foods: These are the most calorie-dense foods (think: nuts, cheese, beef, pork, pizza, cake), and you're encouraged to eat them sparingly.
Yellow foods: These fall somewhere in the middle of the calorie density spectrum (think: chicken, eggs, turkey, beans, ground beef, avocados). So, pick on these in moderation.
Do WW and Noom come with fitness guidance or workout recs?
Yes! Both programs have built-in fitness components or add-ons. With WW, you can actually put FitPoints, or points earned during a workout, toward your daily SmartPoint Budget (a half hour on the elliptical could net you around nine points, for instance). WW offers both free challenges and programs on the app or through partnerships like Aaptiv.
Noom, on the other hand, has a paid option to attach a custom workout plan to your membership. But the app also encourages you to get moving on your own—you'll be asked daily whether you've exercised or not.
What should I know before starting Noom or WW?
If you have a health condition, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, are pregnant or breastfeeding, have anemia, or struggle with an eating disorder or disordered eating, you should steer clear of both Noom and WW, says Roxana Ehsani, RD, the national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Unfortunately, online programs like Noom and WW can’t accurately take into consideration all of your health conditions, medications, and supplements as a registered dietitian nutritionist can," she explains.
On WW: Weight Watchers puts lots of emphasis on shedding pounds and not necessarily on changes in body composition, says Ehsani. "For example, if a person starts to exercise a lot more, they may not see a change in weight and feel discouraged—when in reality they’ve gained muscle and lost fat," she says.
You are also supposed to step on the scale every day or every time you attend a meeting, which may cause you to weigh yourself too many times or overexercise so you could eat more points.
Some foods count as zero points, so you might find yourself only chowing down on those, adds Ehsani. "And counting points each day or each week can lead to unhealthy relationships with food," she says. "You may save up points and then binge on foods later on using those saved points."
On Noom: Noom prescribes very low-calorie diets, which fall below the recommended intake set by USDA. "I’ve had patients prescribed 1,200 calories per day as their limit while on Noom, which is far too low for any adult," says Ehsani. Consuming a small number of calories may help you lose weight quickly, but not in a healthy way, she notes. And typically, you'll rebound just as fast.
Also, healthy foods like olive oil, other oils, nuts, seeds, nut butters, which are all nutrient-dense, are considered red foods and discouraged. They provide heart-healthy fats, reduce inflammation, support brain health, and help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins, says Ehsani. They are also a good source of dietary fiber and protein.
She adds that calorie counting could lead to overexercising, severe calorie restricting, or bingeing and purging behaviors.
Which program is better: WW or Noom?
TBH, it depends on what you're looking for. Abby Langer, RD, the owner of Abby Langer Nutrition and author of Good Food, Bad Diet would vote Noom. "It addresses the psychology behind why why we eat and the food choices that we make," Langer says. And for her, that's of the utmost importance when it comes to having a shot at a sustainable weight loss plan.
Cassetty, on the other hand, says the support network within the Weight Watchers community is huge. "They're constantly updating their algorithm and offerings based on what they know about their community," she says.
You can also look at the science. With Noom, of 15,000 people, only 24 percent kept the weight off for a year, according to one study. And with WW, of 1,269 participants, 64 percent of the pounds lost in a 52-week program was maintained at two years, another study found. "This study may have seen results, but I’d be interested to see if these patients have disordered eating or are engaging in unhealthy eating practices," notes Ehsani.
Regardless of which program you go for, Cassetty says it's important to be flexible with yourself when you've had a so-called slip-up—say, by eating too many red foods or exceeding your SmartPoint limit. "We don't want to demoralize food," Cassetty says. "We just have to learn how to enjoy it more healthfully." She emphasizes that this can be done on either program with care and a little self-forgiveness.
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