I tried Noom to help lose my pregnancy weight—did it work?
A busy mom of five put the popular weight loss app to the test
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In June 2020, during the height of the pandemic, I gave birth to my second baby, under preeclamptic conditions. As a foster-adoptive parent, I already had four other kids at home, including a toddler, but because I knew weight spikes during my pregnancy had endangered my health, I was eager to get my postpartum weight back under control.
By the beginning of spring 2021, however, I was officially stuck. Having already lost about 35 pounds, I had been yo-yoing the same 15 pounds of excess baby weight for months. I was still in maternity clothes and wearing about a 16/18 in American women’s sizes—average for many people, but still the largest I had ever been. I did not feel comfortable or fit. Could the Noom program change that?
What is Noom?
Noom is a weight management app that bills itself as the first weight loss program to deploy psychology in order to help users lose weight.
For $44.99 per month (after a two-week free trial), Noom provides a daily food log, a water consumption log, weight graph, and a database of calorie-counted recipes and foods. Such features are comparable to apps such as SparkPeople and MyFitnessPal, but what sets Noom apart is its strategy of using short daily reads formatted as quick articles, quizzes, and pointers organized into course units.
Additional tools include an exercise log, and space to measure blood sugar readings and blood pressure records. Notably absent is any sort of body measurement tracker. In order to track inches lost or changes in body composition, users must use pencil and paper, a separate notes app, or some other outside means of record keeping.
What I hoped to get from Noom
I’m a 30-something postpartum married mother of five with a weight-loss target of up to 80 pounds, most of it from desk work, preeclampsia, and previous pregnancies.
Due to COVID protocols and a lack of childcare, I wasn’t going to be able to do traditional gym workouts. Plus, as the primary household cook and caregiver, I have a near-constant exposure to food.
I hoped that Noom would help me stop yo-yo dieting and kickstart my weight loss.
What it’s like to use Noom
One of the best things about Noom is how smoothly it can be integrated into a busy day. I preferred to start with a weigh-in on my digital scale, then record the number in Noom while having my morning coffee. A short reading or two, perhaps a quiz, and then I’d pop into the food diary and log my coffee, creamer, and anything I planned on eating with it. This morning routine usually took less than 10 minutes and was a simple habit to keep up.
Along with target calories, I set goals for water consumption and step counts. Since the built-in pedometer in my iPhone connected right to the app, I didn’t have to log walking, and it was automatically factored into Noom’s calorie intake formula for the day.
Meals were easiest to log either while preparing them (so ingredients and portions could be accurately measured) or at the table while I could still see everything on the plate. Waiting too long after eating to record something was one of the fastest ways to mess up the food logs. It’s easy to forget to count a snack here or a drink there.
It’s also simple to end the day with Noom. Sometimes I’d read another article; others, I would record any exercise time, review my step count for the day, and take note of how many water glasses I had remembered to write down. Regardless of whether any mini-goals were achieved, I believe this practice helped encourage me to start and end each day determined to make progress. This also became the usual time that I would browse recipes or run calorie counts for online recipes that I was interested in cooking for the family.
Altogether, Noom can be completed in about 15 minutes per day, depending on the user’s schedule.
What I liked about Noom
Exercise is completely optional
Noom doesn’t come with workout plans or fitness goals. Users can track their exercise time, but weight loss is achievable without it. The app suggests eating back only half the estimated exercise calories burned.
It’s about creating healthy habits
Noom provides a series of lessons, broken down into brief daily articles, that focus primarily on two things: the science of weight management, and the human thought processes and behaviors that can impede success. The vibe is almost unbearably chipper. Noom Nerds love everything.
Busy day? No problem. The lessons are loaded and waiting the next time the user checks in.
There are several useful features
Noom provides other tools for both real-time and overview assessment, including a weight-loss graph and a water consumption tracker. Noom also integrates with the iPhone’s built-in Health application, so users can use their existing phone step counters.
What I didn’t like about Noom
Restrictive eating can be triggering
Users with a history of calorie restriction or a difficult relationship with food may need to steer clear of Noom. An aggressive but medically safe 80-pound loss goal raised no flags. Noom’s system guaranteed that this goal was perfectly achievable by December 2021, and allotted me—a busy, above-average height woman—1,200 calories per day.
Having tried other calorie-counting plans previously, I knew immediately that I would struggle to sustain that level of calorie restriction over time, and that sticking with this plan could trigger obsessive counting.
Portions are paramount
Although Noom does allow for eating back a portion of one’s exercise calories, this was not enough to prevent me from readily going over unless everything I consumed was pre-portioned or dispensed from measuring cups and spoons. While this works mathematically, it’s not a practical strategy for a busy household.
It's difficult to find optimal foods
The red-yellow-green categorizations used by Noom—in which green foods are optimal—isn’t ideal for everyone. This isn’t the app for high-fat keto dieters, for instance. Because Noom settings emphasize very low-calorie choices overall, the app effectively discourages consumption of healthy foods if the calorie count is too high. Avocado, eggs, chicken breast, and salmon are yellow. Chia is red. Checking for yellow and red foods before consumption did help as a weight loss strategy, but it also made finding foods that felt “safe” to eat difficult, especially when eating out.
It's easy to forget about
Despite promoters’ claims, forgetting the Noom habit proved almost as easy as building the Noom habit. Although Noom coursework suggests implementing fallback plans, such as setting a coaching text reminder if meals aren’t logged for more than a day or two, nothing happens if a user ignores that check-in.
There's a lack of accountability
In nearly three months of paid Noom, the system repeatedly announced that both a weight-loss coach and a support group would be forthcoming. “We’re in the process of adding you to your group!” the pop-ups would say. That group never materialized, and consistent coaching wasn’t implemented either.
It wasn’t long until we had a full week of travel and events, with meals out daily and no weigh-ins. The app didn’t protest, though occasionally my phone notifications would light up to tell me a new article was available.
For a weight-management app that sells itself primarily on the assumption that it can keep users coming back for a daily refresher, this accountability protocol proved inadequate.
It's not ideal for users with families
Noom has some internal recipes, but there’s no straightforward way to import new ones. This is a huge oversight; users cooking for an entire household and trying to calculate their own portions must enter everything manually. It would be much more user friendly if recipes could be imported directly, for instance, by posting a link.
So, does Noom work?
Yes, it does, the same way any other calorie tracker works. Noom is a diet plan that prides itself on selling psychology over calorie-counting, but the core driver behind that initial weight loss is monitoring daily calories.
Over the course of three months, I lost 9.5 pounds. Translated to inches—which I had to keep track of manually—I lost 2 inches from my underbust, 2 inches from my waist, and 1 inch from my hips.
If users count calories, the weight loss portion of the program is predictable and straightforward. Stop tracking, though, and plateaus are almost instant.
Is Noom worth it?
Noom is designed with the idea of an individual end user in mind, which makes it doable for anyone, but ideal for single people working on themselves. A holistic approach that encouraged integrating habit and purchase changes into a full household, and in navigating the extra challenges involved in shopping, prepping, and cooking for others, would have been refreshing.
Noom’s best value lies in helping users maintain losses and fine-tune their eating choices. The app takes pains to use non-judgmental, relentlessly positive language. Its drawbacks include the rigidities associated with any calorie-counting system, as well as the high monthly membership price.
Since everything depends on routinely checking into the app for data updates and article reads, Noom is best matched with smartphone owners who carry their phones everywhere, or who have set periods for phone time built into their existing schedules.
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