As apps become routine tools to help us navigate life, new options geared toward weight loss keep popping up. One, called Noom, is designed to foster healthier habits and shed weight long-term. The Noom diet was one of the most searched-for diets over the past year, and it continues to be trendy. Here is my take on Noom: how it works, if it’s healthy, and whether it can really help with weight loss.
There’s a lot to like about Noom. In addition to providing eating plans designed by registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs), Noom allows users to log meals, access workout plans and track exercise, read articles, search recipes, set goals, receive support from a personal health coach (note: not RDNs), rate your motivation level, track progress, and connect with a group of peers with similar goals. It even addresses emotional eating, and how factors like stress and boredom may impact eating decisions.
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Another positive of Noom for many people is that it doesn’t ban any food. Rather, it encourages eating more nutrient-dense foods (labeled green), such as fresh produce, and minimizing the portions and/or frequency of yellow-tagged (proteins, starches) and red-tagged foods (the latter being pizza, candy, alcohol, and the like).
In a nutshell, Noom offers a lot of bells and whistles not available with many other weight loss approaches. I also like that it emphasizes behavior change, rather than a quick fix that’s likely to fizzle out. The goal of the program seems to be to help you find a new normal that’s healthy and has stick-with-it-ness.
But it’s not cheap. While you can download the app for free and test it out in a short trial, a membership runs about $50 per month and is designed to last 16 weeks, or four months. The app also offers additional services for extra costs, like customized workout and meal plans.
In my experience counseling clients one-on-one, I see potential pros and cons to Noom. On the pro side, many of the people I counsel greatly benefit from daily support. Waiting an entire week between consultations can be extremely challenging when you’re eating 21 to 35 or more meals in between. For that reason, I often ask my clients to track their intake with an app like My Fitness Pal, and give me permission to view their journals. Others send me daily texts or email dairies. I have found that this kind of daily support and feedback can have a tremendous impact on success.
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Another pro is that Noom addresses social eating and allows you to do things like plan ahead for events—like a party, holiday, or vacation. This is also something I address with clients that fosters true long-term behavior change. And while not inexpensive, Noom likely costs less than working individually with a dietitian, unless the latter is entirely covered by your insurance plan.
In terms of outcomes, one review found that the majority of participants successfully lose weight, particularly if they log their eating and weights more frequently. According to Noom, 64% of users lose 5% or more of their body weight, and 60% maintain the loss for one year or more.
On the con side, many of my clients dislike tracking, and find it to be cumbersome and stressful. Some are also trying to spend less time on their phones, not more, and fare better with IRL counseling and support. Also, if you have any kind of special dietary needs, such as food sensitivities or allergies, or chronic conditions like IBS, I think it’s best to work directly with an RDN, as a dietitian’s training includes both clinical nutrition and weight loss.
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After searching for Noom reviews online, I found mixed feedback. Some people seem to love the app and have positive experiences. Others complain that canceling isn’t so simple, or that they weren’t happy with the content or coaching provided. For example, some noted that the coaching messages seemed automated, and others weren’t thrilled with the accessibility of the coaching. Another complaint involved the lack of foods in the tracking database. Before signing up, it’s definitely worth taking the time to read some reviews for yourself.
Finally, while the app provides support, the user ultimately has to make his or her own eating and exercise decisions. So the app may very well wind up like a virtual version of a spontaneously ordered treadmill that soon becomes nothing more than an expensive clothes hanger. In other words, you really do need to be motivated and engaged in order to benefit. That also means how much weight you lose, and how quickly you lose it are really determined by you. The app is simply a tool.
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health‘s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.
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