Noom: More of a Bust than a Boom

Yesterday I told you about my experiences with Weight Watchers (aka WW). Today, let me tell you all about Noom.

Noooooooom!

Okay, enough of that silliness.

First Off

The name is dumb. It means nothing. And part of the company’s “playful” and “cool” schtick is to try to push it as being sooooooo mysterious and aren’t you dyyyyyying to know what it means?

No. No, I am not.

Credit Where it’s Due

To give the company its due, I did learn about it through one of its sponsorships.

Noom sponsors NPR, and I am a big NPR listener (or at least I was until the pandemic made listening to the news an anxiety-provoking activity). So, well done Noom on hitting your target audience. Bravo.

Noom bills itself as a lifestyle-changing program, rather than a diet. Though, like any other diet, you are assigned a daily calorie budget with some extra weekly points you can use to “cheat” with–like in WW.

You then begin on a daily regimen of trite inanities.

What Now?

Yes, that’s what I said. You’re put through some pretty painfully dumb readings, quizzes and assignments.

Alright, I understand that this is a program designed for all Noom users, and that perhaps I am not what you would call average in terms of rapidity of thought and concept comprehension. Nor, however, am I an Einstein.

But PLEASE! I think what drove me most insane about Noom was the stupidly vapid, annoying and sometimes rather condescending tone of voice it uses in all its communications.

What You Actually Have To Do

  • On Noom, you weigh in daily. Weight Watchers and other programs I’ve heard of have you weigh in only once a week.

Noom argues, however, that weighing in daily helps you to conquer “scanxiety,” aka “scale anxiety” (See?! It’s these stupid terms that annoy me!).

Fine. I didn’t really mind that.

  • Then, you have to spend a good ten to 20 minutes on your phone, reading all the day’s articles, taking the quizzes and preparing for the day’s “assignments.”

At first, I diligently read all the articles, tried to absorb the “psych tricks” (“It’s all based on real psychology!” Is there such a think as fake psychology?), and obediently tried out the assignments.

It wasn’t all BS, though. I did glean some takeaways for portion control, tips for avoiding temptation at the grocery store, and even got a couple of nice recipes.

But spending that much time on my phone soon became undoable. I do not spend that much time on my phone in one sitting. As life butted in, I found myself dropping off halfway through an article to help dress a child, prepare breakfast, or (Heaven forbid!) actually go pee myself.

Then the day began and suddenly, I was behind on my assignments and felt like I had to try and play catch-up for the rest of the day.

  • And of course, you count calories. Foods are either green, yellow or red, and you’re steered towards a certain amount of each per day.

In the end, Noom is like any other program you’ve tried, just with jauntier lingo. The long and the short of it is that you have to count calories.

The database of known foods may be growing as people add in grocery store items and ingredients, but when I tried it, it was still quite limited. I mainly shop at Giant and Wegmans, and many basic products I bought there were not recognized.

And, naturally, I had to put in all my go-to recipes again and calculate how many portions they are (I dunno, I’ve made them up!), and how many calories a portion is.

Other Elements of the Noom Program

At the beginning you are assigned a coach. Your coach is a “health consultant” but is not a registered dietician.

I don’t know what qualifies a person to be a health consultant, but the supposed lady who was my coach seemed more like a robot giving automated responses. She was worse than useless.

After a period, you are also added to a support group. I think you’re matched up with others who began at more or less the same time, have similar lifestyles, goals and habits (they ask you about these things when you sign up).

Honestly, most of the time I ignored what was going on in my “support group” and what the group leader (another Noom employee) was posting there. She was supposedly setting challenges or giving motivating advice, but most of the time it just felt like even more stuff to read and assignments to complete.

All In All

Okay, so I did lose a little weight when I started Noom. That’s probably because my calorie intake was limited to 1,400 calories a day (whaaaaaaat? Yeeeeeeeeees, I know it’s ridiculous).

I spent a lot of time hungry. The “green foods” Noom suggests you focus on were not enough to fill me up. Lean proteins and even healthy fats like avocado, nuts and seeds are classified as “red foods,” so I avoided them.

Funny, but it seems to me like (in moderation) these are precisely the kinds of foods that help to satiate while also stabilizing blood sugar. But hey, I’m not an expert.

(Though it seems I already know more than my Noom “health coach” did.)

I fell behind in my readings and quizzes and soon became overwhelmed and unmotivated. My tracking fizzled, and before long I had quit and deleted the app.

And the weight crept back on.

In Conclusion

In terms of personalization, good coaching and support, Weight Watchers is definitely superior to Noom. Their database of known foods is also much better.

If you want to try a diet that encourages low-fat, low calorie consumption, and you don’t want stupid people talking to you as if you are the idiot, then skip Noom and use Weight Watchers. If you’re going to be hungry, you don’t want to feel like someone’s adding insult to the injury by belittling your intelligence.

Personally, I’m ready to try something else. Something drastic.

Watch this space.

Jane

The Brain In Jane works mainly in the rain. It's always raining somewhere. Find me on Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

6 thoughts to “Noom: More of a Bust than a Boom”

  1. Thanks for this honest review. I’d like to offer a counter-perspective (No, I don’t work for Noom, I just came across this and thought there were some interesting things to think about in terms of how we interpret things differently).

    First, I’ll admit, I am a bit of a Kool-Aid drinker. It’s not that I’m gullible or that I don’t have a healthy sense of skepticism, but I maybe go a little further than most in intentionally holding back cynicism to give things the opportunity to work as they are intended to. While I certainly register the contrived casual tone and the simple language of the articles, I can choose to think of it as inane and insulting, or I can decide to read it as written for a broad audience, and take from it the intention rather than the delivery, I can resent the content that feels obvious and condescending, or I can take the view that the content that is useful to me is intended for me, and the rest might be useful to someone else whose needs are a bit different from mine.

    I’ve also read and heard a lot of people express that they feel their coach was robotic, to the point that they even wondered if they were a robot. For me, the coach and the support group are one of the best parts of the whole thing, not because of any amazing insight I gain (or have yet gained) but because it encourages me to write, which encourages me to reflect. Yes, this could be accomplished by journaling, but I personally have a lot of trouble sticking to a journaling routine. Having the prompts of the coach and the articles and the group give me a starting point, and the sense of interaction, that I am writing *to* someone… and even if that was only an illusion, it would be a useful one for me.

    As for the slightly silly “It’s psychology!” hyped up *science-y* rhetoric… well… yeah. It is psychology. And as it took me a very long time to realize, psychology is often deceptively simple. It’s things that make you go “duh.” And sometimes I have to put away my eye roll, and let myself be reminded of the things that *of course* I already know, but maybe I need to be frequently and actively reminded of. That’s why the daily articles are useful to me… even if I read only one, even if it’s just one of the “Hey, you’ve gotten this far!” messages, it keeps me actively engaged, and allows the brainwashing to do its work.

    And yeah, it’s brainwashing… that is, it’s conditioning. And if it’s beneficial and voluntary, that can make a huge difference in someone’s life.

    I also am in this for reasons other than just wanting to lose some weight. I’m coming to this with a history of disordered eating (and yes, I know that the coaches aren’t dieticians and aren’t qualified to assess, diagnose, or treat eating disorders) and of depression, ADHD, self-sabotage and low self-esteem. Knowing these things about myself, I find it very useful to have the cheesy cheerleading, the prompts and reminders, the interactive elements, and very much appreciate the cognitive-behavioral approach. Yes, you’re ultimately counting calories, like any other weight loss program. But for someone like me, the calorie counting is the least important part.

    I’m still relatively new to Noom, though… and if it all turns out to be a bust in the end, I’ll come back here and tell you that you were right all along. 🙂

    1. Gella, thank you so much for taking the time to make your thoughtful comment on my article. I really value your perspective, and it’s nice to hear from someone who has had/is having a different experience. I hope you continue to have success with Noom, and that it goes well for you. Whether you continue having success or not, please do let me know!

      Have a wonderful holiday season, and best of luck for health and happiness in 2021!

  2. I stumbled upon this entry upon googling “Noom annoying”, having not read any reviews that acknowledge the single thing that made the Noom experience intolerable to me. I didn’t make it past the trial because reading the articles was so entirely unbearable to me. It felt so forced, like they were trying so hard to be fun and quirky— it just was too much. So I feel you and I agree, WW is far less painful, though I really feel like there’s a market for a plan similar to Noom but much better executed. Hopefully someday?

    1. Thanks for reading, Liz! And you’re right: you are not alone in how you felt about Noom. I’ve had feedback from friends saying they’ve had success, and I’m so glad for them. I thought Gella’s comment above was really thoughtful and I admired her ability not to be annoyed by Noom. But it seems to me that weight loss programs, like many things, are hit for some and miss for others. There are so many different options out there, but it is exhausting to have to do the shopping around. I have been using Under Armour’s myfitnesspal app since September, and that combined with following a higher-protein, higher-fat, lower-carb diet has so far been successful for me. I’ve levelled out my blood sugar, lost weight, and gained energy. I’ve forgotten what it is to be hangry! My advice would be: try and talk with your doctor about options. If your doctor (like mine) was a bit clueless, keep doing your own research to try and find a program that might work for you. Myfitnesspal offers a paid premium version which I have not tried, but who knows? It might work.

      Good luck! And I wish you all the best for 2021.

  3. I just cancelled Noom after 3 days. It seemed to me that their target demographic is teenage girls. I’m a 65 year old man. Apologies if I’m being too hard on teenage girls, but who takes their tripe seriously? I react badly when I feel my intelligence is being insulted. For example – gratuitous and meaningless hash tags (#NoomersLoveData!) used in support of… I forget what “data” was being spouted. Don’t presume to tell me what I love. For me, the condescension obscured the message. This morning I got a message from my “coach”, who was “excited” to help me on my “journey”. Hello – Sacajawea is that you? It’s me, Lewis. Or am I Clark? The giveaway that my coach is a bot was the elapsed time between my sending the “cancel” message and a lengthy “sorry to see you go but would you be interested in a lower price” response from the coach – less than 2 seconds. OK then, this is a digital souk. Got it. Not buying that carpet.

    I dutifully logged my food intake for a couple of days, coming in well below the daily calorie target but feeling distressed that I was over budget on “red” foods. Wait a minute – eating a ham sandwich on sourdough is behavior I should change even though my caloric intake is well within the weight loss range? Um, no.

    I had high hopes for Noom. What I feel I need help with is staying focused on weight loss over the long term – not getting discouraged or burned out. And Noom may well help people with that. But not being a teenage girl (or not having one’s sensibilities) makes Noom a pajama party I left early.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Bob. As a former teenage girl myself I cannot agree with your assessment of their target demographic. 😉 But I can understand your frustration with the program. I hope you can find something that works better for you.

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