So you want to lose some weight. And you'd really, really like this to be the last time you have to lose those pounds. In other words, you want a weight loss plan that works, one that doesn't leave you starving or having to eat foods that are weird, difficult to find, or a time suck to prepare, and you want a plan that helps you keep those pounds off for life.
There are many weight loss plans and services that can help you. But one that weight management professionals tend to consider particularly helpful is weight loss app Noom is one service experts say may be worth the cost. It not only helps you figure out what to eat without relying on restrictive or trendy (read: generally unsustainable) diets, it also helps you recognize behaviors around food that might be keeping those pounds on, so you can change them for good.
Sounds good, but is it? We checked in with Abby Langer, R.D., author of the forthcoming Good Food, Bad Diet: The Habits You Need to Ditch Diet Culture, Lose Weight, and Fix Your Relationship with Food Forever, to explore the ins and outs of Noom.
What is Noom?
The weight loss app Noom aims to help you improve lifestyle habits to help you lose weight long term. It's easy to get started: simply complete the questionnaire about your current weight, age, goal weight as well as dietary and lifestyle habits.
Within the app, you'll be able to track meals by using the food database or a bar code scanner, and log exercise and weight.
Noom does recommend a calorie level according to your goals—including how quickly you're hoping to lose the weight. But one of the big differentiators with the app is that you also get a coach to help you during the plan. You can choose whether you want your key focus to be on physical activity, nutrition, or building good habits. There are also recommended readings that help you really nail weight loss and, for instance, pack your meals with nutrients, not just calories.
Is Noom good for weight loss?
The app offers a balanced approach to shedding pounds, says Langer. Although many diets stress hitting your numbers, whether it's macros or calories, Noom encourages focusing on your motivations for weight loss.
"Finding your 'why' is something I really try to do with people. I thought Noom was really spot on with that," says Langer.
Other programs may offer coaches who aren't adequately equipped to answer health-related questions, says Langer. Noom coaches complete training recognized by the International Consortium for Health and Wellness Training and hold a bachelor's or associates degree in a related field, such as nutrition.
"I liked the fact that the coaches were actually experienced," she says. I was kind of surprised at that."
A study published in Scientific Reports in 2016 found that nearly 80 percent of Noom users lost weight while using the app—and that the more consistent people were in using it, especially in noting what they had for dinner, the more likely they were to have success with it.
That plays out in the real world, too: app store reviews also suggest that people have had success losing weight using Noom. One reviewer on the Apple store said the money spent on Noom was well worth the investment: "I learned what to eat, what to limit, what to increase. Because of my immediate success during the trial, I decided to pay for the subscription. I just wanted to get under 200 lbs and be in less pain," they wrote. "I hit my goal and kept going. I felt like the pace was perfect. The lessons were really motivating, and the group was safe and encouraging. I hit 162.5 in October."
What can you eat on Noom?
Noom encourages a balanced approach that doesn't demonize particular foods. Items are categorized into categories: green, yellow, and red, based on caloric density. Oatmeal, vegetables, and fruit are considered green while oils and nut butters are labeled red. That said, the company is clear that green doesn't indicate good and red isn't bad. Instead, the latter indicates you should be mindful about quantity when eating "red" foods.
Recommended readings and quizzes cover more than the standard "eat more, move more" advice. According to Langer, one sample article focused on how to work through short-term discomfort to achieve long-term goals.
What are the cons of Noom?
People with a history of disordered eating may want to steer clear of food tracking apps like these, Langer warns. "If you are one of those people who find it triggering to log food, I would think about whether you should be on a diet to begin with," she says.
Although food diaries can assist with mindful eating, they can cause preoccupation in some people. Enlisting the help of a registered dietitian to develop a healthy relationship with food may be a better choice.
"If you find that you get obsessive, I would just focus on the quality of your food and listening to your body and achieving an optimal weight for you," advises Langer.
Others may find the program overwhelming, with all the daily readings, quizzes, and food logging. "It’s just a lot to do all at once," says Langer. That said, you can always tailor the service to fit your lifestyle by only incorporating one change at a time.
Additionally, Noom takes your activity into account, and allows users to eat more calories based on activity. That can create a problematic mindset about exercise. "We have this perception that you can erase your food with a workout," she says. "Chances are you’re burning a lot less when you’re exercising than you think you are."
How much does Noom cost?
Noom often offers free trials. After that, you can upgrade to a plan that costs about $59 according to the company's website. Or, if you sign up for a four-month plan, the cost drops to $32.25 per month.
The bottom line
Overall, Noom is pretty solid, says Langer. The service lacks a weight maintenance component to help people transition out of dieting and into the rest of life, and the cost is relatively expensive. But if you have weight to lose, are ready to do the work, and don't have a medical problem or a disordered eating issue, then Noom may be right for you.
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