Nutritionists And Users Have *A Lot* Of Feelings And Opinions About Noom


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For many people, achieving weight-loss goals can be difficult, especially without the right guidance. Personal trainers can be expensive, but even so, people are willing to experiment with weight loss methods now more than ever. And while they’re not designed to be perfect, a macro-tracking app or a workout app can be a huge asset for your efforts. You may have heard a positive Noom review or two and are curious what it involves.

Noom is a fitness and weight-loss program that promises to help users “stop dieting” and get “life-long results.” Noom claims to be the “last weight-loss program you’ll ever need,” according to its website. Instead of telling you how to exercise or what to eat, the Noom app uses principles from psychology to help you build healthy habits that will help you lose weight and keep it off.

After filling out your goals, Noom will give you a calorie count to hit daily. It’ll also provide you with info on how to improve the way you eat and work out. It uses a color-coded database that categorizes a million food items based on how nutrient-dense they are. However, some critics say the daily calorie goal is too low and that food labeling may trigger disordered eating, especially in those with a history of an eating disorder.

Want to learn more about the Noom app and how it differs from other weight loss plans? Here's why some dietitians believe it has potential—with a few drawbacks.

Meet the experts: Karin Evans, PhD, CHES, is a registered dietician that specializes in eating disorders, body image, women's health, and general health and wellness.

Mia Syn is a registed dietician nutritionist and host of Good Food Friday on ABC News 4.

First, what is Noom exactly?

Noom claims to be the “last weight-loss program you’ll ever need,” according to its website. It’s like having a trainer, nutritionist, and health coach all in one place (i.e., your phone).

Where Noom differs from other apps, however, is its focus on making behavioral changes surrounding dieting and weight loss. The app will show you, for example, the best foods to eat. It does a good job of not instilling fear around certain foods, rather taking an educational approach to help users understand how to make balanced choices and why they recommend certain foods over others. The app also prompts you to read tidbits on healthy habits and rate your motivation—and will test you after.

The app may sound kind of tedious (who has time to read and take quizzes throughout the day?), but it could be the key to successful, sustained weight loss. The education elements that the app includes, like how it teaches you about calorie reduction and carb intake, as well as how to increase physical activity, have really important information if you want to lose weight in a sustainable way.

You can also receive rewards when you change your behaviors, plus you have access to social support—and positive reinforcement and accountability coaching have both been shown to help with long-term success.

Here’s what happens when you download the Noom app.

When you first add it to your phone, you will be prompted to answer some questions about your activity levels, age, gender, height, how often you eat, your weight, and why you want to lose weight. It also asks about your risk for conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

Noom will ask you to complete 10 mini-lessons in the next 16 weeks. Each course covers a specific theme that will provide you with the knowledge, skills, and tools to help you lose weight and “make progress far beyond the scale.” It’s up to you whether you want to spend as little as five minutes a day or up to 16 minutes a day on these learning sessions.

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After two days, the program will connect you with a coach, who will reach out personally about two times a week to check in and share motivational messages to help you keep going. A few days after that, you will be assigned a group coach and peer chat group. Your group coach will moderate the chat and share weight-loss tips. They’ll sometimes also respond to individual comments, questions, and posts.

(It should be noted that Noom provides users with “health and wellness coaches”who are approved by the National Consortium for Credentialing Health & Wellness Coaches—though that doesn’t necessarily mean they are trained professionals like registered dietitians or certified trainers.)

Once your plan is set, you will get the number of calories you need to aim for every day. The app requires you to record your daily physical activity, as well as meals and snacks. It offers a step counter too, so you can monitor how much you’re walking. Noom also encourages you to log other health markers like blood glucose, blood pressure, and water intake.

A Noom weight-loss program is designed to last about four months, but it is recommended that you purchase a membership for up to 12 months at a time to maintain the results.

What can you eat on Noom?

Noom doesn't necessarily say that certain foods are off-limits, but the company uses green, yellow, and orange color coding to let you know which foods may help or prevent you from reaching your weight loss goals.

Under ideal circumstances, about 30 percent of what you eat in a day should come from green foods, 45 percent should come from yellow foods, and 25 percent should come from orange foods.

Green foods, like fruits and veggies, are the least calorie-dense and contain the highest concentration of healthy nutrients. Yellow foods have more calories, but aren’t necessarily bad for you—think: meat and dairy. Orange foods, like processed foods and desserts, are the most calorie-dense, and the least nutrient-dense.

You can still have orange foods; the app just wants to make you aware that they’re high in calories and less filling, so you know what that means for staying within your daily calorie goal.

Examples of green foods include the following:

  • Apples

  • Bananas

  • Berries

  • Egg whites

  • Non-fat dairy products

  • Peppers

  • Quinoa

  • Spinach

  • Whole-grain bread

Foods that are considered yellow include the following:

  • Avocado

  • Beans

  • Black beans

  • Chicken

  • Salmon

  • Whole eggs

Orange foods include things like:

  • Beef

  • Burgers

  • Cakes

  • French fries

  • Full-fat dairy

  • Nuts

  • Nut butter

  • Olive oil

  • Seeds

What does eating the Noom diet look like?

Mia Syn, RD, the owner of Nutrition by Mia, provides a three-day sample meal plan of the Noom diet.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Banana, apple, and nut oatmeal made with quick-cooking oats, flaxseed, skim or almond milk, walnuts, and honey

  • Morning snack: Spiced sweet potato chips made with sugar, cumin, chili powder, and salt

  • Lunch: Butternut squash bisque made with olive oil, fat-free chicken broth, garlic, onion, sweet red peppers, plain yogurt, and seasonings

  • Afternoon snack: Anchovy-tomato toast made with a French baguette, low-fat mozzarella cheese, diced tomatoes, onion, and pesto

  • Dinner: Eggplant and green bean salad made with vermicelli noodles, onion, extra virgin olive oil, fish sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, scallions, and sesame seeds

  • Evening snack: Three-berry compote made with blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, maple syrup, maple syrup, nutmeg, and grated orange rind

Day 2

  • Breakfast: Spinach-tomato frittata made with olive oil, scallions, eggs, egg whites, low-salt mozzarella cheese, and grape tomatoes, served with one slice of toasted low-sodium, whole-grain bread

  • Morning snack: Creamy cucumber and dill salad made with cucumbers, low-fat yogurt, rice wine vinegar, dill, red onion, and seasonings

  • Lunch: Herb-stuffed squash made with acorn squash, barley, scallions, celery, pine nuts, olive oil, and seasonings

  • Afternoon snack: Fig and prosciutto tortilla bites made with a whole-grain tortilla, gorgonzola cheese, and chives

  • Dinner: Lean pork lettuce wraps made with whole-grain rice, pork, Bibb lettuce, ginger, garlic, red bell pepper, cucumbers, carrots, mushrooms, lime, soy sauce, and brown sugar

Day 3

  • Breakfast: A smoothie made with cranberries, apple, lemon, nutmeg, honey, blackberries, and coconut oil

  • Morning snack: Smoky paprika kale chips made with olive oil, paprika, and salt

  • Lunch: Mediterranean turkey sandwich made with non-fat mayonnaise, sun-dried tomato paste, multigrain bread, oven-roasted deli turkey, avocado, cucumber, roasted red bell pepper, and spinach

  • Afternoon snack: Creamy applesauce dream made with apples, orange juice, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and low-fat, sugar-free frozen yogurt

  • Dinner: Vegetarian bean chili made with diced tomatoes, kidney beans, chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, sugar, vegetable oil, onion, garlic, corn, cilantro, and seasonings

How much does Noom cost?

There is a free trial for a week, but the program requires a paid subscription after that. It’s about $60 a month, but you can buy multiple months at the same time for less money.

Each weight loss plan is individualized, and the recommended duration of the program varies depending on how much weight you're looking to lose, which in turn affects the total cost.

What does Noom actually do to help with weight loss?

Noom helps you stay accountable and make wise choices on your own. So, Noom doesn’t exactly give you a daily menu or have a specific food program to follow. Instead, it asks you to input everything you eat, and it uses traffic light colors (red, green, yellow) to help you understand how healthy you’re eating.

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Noom can be a good tool for weight loss because not only do they educate users on how to become a more mindful eater to support weight loss and provide optional tracking tools for food and exercise, they address the mental health side as well. “They use a science-based approach to help users better understand their relationship with food and even offer a personal coach for support throughout the program,” Syn says.

How is Noom different from WW (formerly Weight Watchers)?

They are similar in that they both use a food ranking system (with WW, it's a points system, whereas with Noom, it's a color system) to group foods as more or less nutritious. But Noom arguably gets more at the psychological factors behind weight management, and helps you explore why you have certain eating habits and choose the foods you do. WW, on the other hand, boasts a strong community that offers accountability and external support. Noom is also a little bit pricier.

Which one is better for you? It ultimately depends on your personality and budget. Consider doing a consultation with a dietitian to help you choose, or ask friends and family who have experience with the two programs.

What do Noom reviews say?

The reviews are mostly positive. Mary Leuthauser, 30, previously told WH that Noom is what finally kickstarted her weight-loss journey, and she lost 40 pounds using the app. “It taught me how to eat again, as silly as that may sound,” she said. Leuthauser also explained that the program taught her how to choose foods that “fueled my body instead of just filled me up.”

But she really stuck to the app and took advantage of all the educational resources. “Once I finished my course with Noom, all of the habits I learned actually stuck,” she said.

Haleigh Scott, 32, tells WH that Noom was the first program that didn't make her feel like she was being punished for the choices she made before downloading the app. Instead, she was given education on how to enjoy the foods she loved in moderation. "Having the comfort of still being able to enjoy my favorite meal and drinks encouraged me to keep going," she explained. "I may have lost 30 pounds, but as a single mother of a two-year-old, I have found so much more."

Katie Moczygemba, 28, a surgical trauma ICU nurse in San Antonio, Texas, previously told WH that Noom helped her develop a healthier relationship with food and overcome binge eating disorder. "It gave me great insights into why I had a tumultuous relationship with food that I couldn’t ever get past. I have since quit Noom and focus on intuitive eating, but to this day I still use many tidbits of information from their daily articles," she said.

Emily Gonzalez, 35, a nurse who lost more than 190 pounds with Noom, tells WH, "I love Noom because it teaches you about more than just what you eat, but also the why behind it. Instead of drastic measures like cutting carbs, prepackaged meal deliveries or totally avoiding sugar, Noom uses psychology to help you understand and build healthier habits, one small step at a time, and teaches you how to make changes to your daily food choices & physical activity to develop a sustainable healthier lifestyle and achieve weight loss success. I also love that no foods are “bad” or off limits! With learning balance and moderation, your food options are limitless!"

Barbara Heath, 35, a certified personal trainer who lost over 100 pounds with Noom, tells WH, "Noom saved my life! This easy to follow program has completely changed my relationship with food, the scale and the mirror! Noom has given me the tools to not only transform my mind and body, but the minds and bodies of others! Noom has helped me fall in love with fitness and nutrition so I've pursued a career as a personal trainer!"

Here are the pros and cons of Noom, summarized.

There are both good and bad things to consider about the program.

Pros

  • Some people swear by it. There are plenty of five-star reviews in the App Store. Just one example: "I was skeptical when I first started the trial. Roughly a month into this program, I have lost almost 10 pounds without much inconvenience."

  • It holds you accountable. This is a big thing with reviewers, who point out that there are a lot of features to help keep you on track.

  • It's very specific. If you have trouble figuring out if your meals are healthy or how you should be moving on any given day, Noom can help guide you.

  • Ideal for someone who has never tried weight loss. If it's the user's first attempt to lose weight they'll feel refreshed the all the guidance the app has to offer.

Cons

  • It lumps everyone into one group. If you have an underlying medical condition that prevents you from shedding weight, the app won’t know that—and that might leave you frustrated.

  • It's pricey. Noom is about $60 a month. That's less than the most expensive Weight Watchers plan, but definitely more expensive than just counting calories on your own.

  • It requires initiative. The app isn’t going to head to the grocery store and cook for you (or drive you to the gym), so you have to take some initiative to actually follow through with the healthy habits suggested.

  • Not ideal for those with a history of eating disorders. The app does not limit how much weight you can lose based on your personal information, which may lead to the belief that you can lose dangerous amounts of weight, says registered dietician Karin Evans, PhD, CHES. Plus, some foods listed as orange might be associated with what foods should be avoided, when in reality, they may be necessary for you to feel satiated.

Speak with your doc before you try it (as you should before jumping into any weight-loss program), so you’ll know if you have an issue like insulin resistance, thyroid problems, or hormone imbalances, and you can address those first.

Remember: It is what it says it is—a weight-loss app. Therefore, if you have struggled with obsessing over your weight in the past or have a history of eating disorders or disordered eating, it may be best to stick with one-on-one coaching with a registered dietitian.

Ultimately, if you plan on losing weight with Noom, you should be open to commit outside forms of assistance.

While Evans does not recommend using Noom for weight loss, she does note that if you are trying Noom, the best thing to do would be to speak with a registered dietician or nutrition therapist.

“When you’re promoting your app as something that looks to the psychology behind eating, it would logically mean that you’re going to provide psychological support through a counselor or a therapist someone licensed or at least a registered dietician that does nutrition therapy," says Evans. Identifying the reasons why your weight might be higher can bring up unresolved feelings that require a higher level of support. “The coaches can be helpful to a certain extent, but they can’t go to that deeper level, at least they shouldn’t be, that’s not within their scope," she adds.

But FWIW, a 2016 study in the journal Scientific Reports found that Noom can help with weight loss. Researchers analyzed data from 35,921 Noom app users over the course of about nine months and found that 77.9 percent reported they lost weight. One interesting note: Those who neglected recording their dinner in the app lost less weight than those who recorded their dinner regularly.

So while the app can definitely help you lose weight—you have to actually use it in a way that's safe and be mindful of your limits. If you really take advantage of the app every day and put in data that's honest and truthful, the Noom program should help you lose weight. In other words, listen to the experts and follow the plan and you’ll squash some goals.

The ideal user is probably someone with a busy lifestyle (hi, almost everyone on the planet!). And those who enjoy virtual support from like-minded peeps (shout-out to millennials) may also benefit. The app is realistic about long-term results and doesn’t try to get its users to conform to a restrictive or fad-diet style of eating (e.g., keto, gluten-free, raw, etc.).

Ultimately, know that different folks respond to plans differently. Some people like having a clear outline of what to eat and why, some people like working face to face with a coach, and some people like doing it all through the convenience of their phone—it really comes down to what works for you.

The bottom line: An app isn’t the only way to lose weight or build healthy eating habits, so know yourself and find a plan that works for you.

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