Health & Fitness

What is the Noom diet—and does it really work?

We dove into the science behind the Noom diet.

Barbecue shrimp on a plate of rice Credit: Noom

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When it comes to diets there are plenty, plenty, plenty of options out there—especially on the internet. From diet trends splashed across social media to the diets your grandma swore by in the 1980s, it’s easy to get lost in the clutter that is weight management. If you’ve paid attention to Instagram and your TV lately, you might have heard about Noom, a new diet that really isn’t a diet at all, but more of a tool to adjust your lifestyle to get your body to your goal weight.

Our executive editor Megan McCarthy tried Noom for three months and found that it worked for her, even writing, "I feel like I lost 20 pounds in 100 days just by staring at my phone." Seems straightforward, right?

But 2020 has thrown everyone a curveball, as all our best-laid plans met a vastly different reality. If your goals have shifted this year, there are still ways Noom can help you stay on top of your health in 2020. Whether you're looking to start small or go all-in, we've cut through the clutter to help you get a better understanding of Noom, who it's for, how much it costs, and anything else you could possibly wonder before committing to try it for yourself.

What is Noom?

Woman using noom
Credit: Noom

You can access Noom from your phone.

Noom works by giving users access to on-demand health experts; creating a personalized eating plan based on users' specific lifestyles and the food they eat; providing valuable information with videos, articles, and quizzes; and logging exercise and health records in an app that serves as the cornerstone of the plan. Created by a series of personal trainers, nutritionists, and psychologists, Noom was designed to help people learn to change their lifestyle to be healthier instead of focusing on one-off fads and trends that are more difficult to stick with in real life.

According to Noom’s Chief of Psychology, Dr. Andrea Michaelides, “Noom is not a weight loss diet, but a healthy behavior change program that focuses on changing the way the mind looks at food.” And that data shows that people are interested in the program. In fact, with more than 47 million users across the globe, according to a statement from Noom, it was the third most searched for diet on Google in 2019.

How does Noom work?

Noom colors
Credit: Noom

Noom breaks down foods into three categories: green, yellow, and red.

Noom claims it is not a typical diet. According to Dr. Michaelides, “Diets don’t work over the long-term. Research and peer-reviewed studies on Noom show consumers who change their approach and behaviors to food lose the most weight and have the best long term results.”

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Noom starts by having people answer a series of lifestyle questions to figure out their exact goals. The questions take into account many aspects of life (with obvious questions like what is your weight and activity levels) to unexpected questions (like what type of community you live in) to even asking if you had an active lifestyle when you were younger.

Once the app has created a personalized weight loss plan, users then start to log what they eat and how active they are. The app gives each user a daily allotted caloric intake and tracks progress throughout the day to make sure they know exactly how many calories they have left to eat that day.

Noom claims that it lets you eat what you want (within reason). It won't harass you to eat a salad every day, but it also won't reward you for eating pizza for every meal. The app uses color categories for each type of food: green is low calorie (think fruits and veggies), yellow has a higher caloric count (proteins, starches), and red means calorie-packed produce (pizza and sweets, for example). Your personalized plan will give you a percentage breakdown of how much of each color to eat during the day and track your progress as you go.

Noom
Credit: Noom

Noom is different from other diets.

Though Noom uses advanced AI technology to power the app and come up with your plan, one of the key components is the ability to actually communicate with real people, both professionals and other users. Users can connect with an assigned coach, or goal specialist, during regular business hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) to answer questions, help set goals, and ultimately keep you accountable during the program. It’s important to note that these specialists may not actually be registered dietitians or certified coaches, but are approved by the National Consortium for Credentialing Health & Wellness Coaches.

After using Noom for two weeks, users are also invited to join peer groups through the app to have people to go through the program with. According to a statement from Noom, once users are placed in a group, they’ll have 24/7 access to the group and the group’s coach, who is different from the user's personal goal specialist. This coach helps the group “facilitate community, support, and group challenges.” And while it’s suggested to work with the group throughout the program, users can contribute as much or as little as they want. That means if you like dieting in private, you don't have to engage with the groups.

While all of this is the core of the program, it’s accented by tons of other features to keep you on track and healthy, like access to workout routines, recipes, articles, and other features to keep you going steady. Noom also highlights other issues around food like stress eating, emotional eating, and eating out of boredom.

Who is Noom for?

Since Noom isn’t necessarily a diet but more of an entire lifestyle app, in theory, it could be for anyone looking to get healthier regardless of weight loss goals.

For those looking to actually lose weight, Noom could a pretty good option—if you stick with it. The company claims that 65% of users lose 5% or more of their body weight, and 60% maintain the loss for one year or more. This does require you to follow your plan to the letter, engage with your specialist, and hold yourself accountable for properly tracking your progress.

How much does Noom cost?

Potentially one of the downsides of Noom is that the program costs $59.99 a month if you pay monthly, but discounted rates are available if you purchase multiple months at time. At the time of writing, Noom is offering an annual auto-recurring plan for only $199.99. A positive though is that price does include access to coaches to actually help guide you through the program, though that access is limited to typical business hours.

Currently, Noom is available for free for two weeks. In a statement on the site, the company says it's offering two free weeks in response to the COVID crisis, stating that it hopes users can "find structure and relief during this difficult time."

How is Noom different from Weight Watchers

According to our staff members who tried and compared the two programs, “both WW and Noom aim to change your relationship with food by simply encouraging you to eat more healthy foods than unhealthy ones. Both use food and weight logging, and both implement a structure to categorize foods to help you make better food choices.”

But ultimately, they explain Noom is a “better choice for those who’d like their weight-loss journey to be more personal rather than public, and for those who suspect they might need a reset in their mentality toward eating and exercise.” Since Weight Watchers often involves group meetings or calls, Noom’s social from a distance approach is one of the key differences. If you're looking for a more community-based approach to weight-loss, Weight Watchers may be a better choice for you.

Is Noom worth it?

At the end of the day, no diet is perfect. Otherwise we’d all be fit and our ideal weight, right? Noom definitely has its pros and cons—like any dieting program, you’ll never know how it works for yourself until you try it.

We think Megan's answer to this question might be the best: “Is it a miracle? No, but it feels like something more substantial: A sustainable way to create healthier habits.”

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