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.

Why WW Didn’t Work for Me

In this article, I refer to the company as both Weight Watchers and WW. The official name used to be Weight Watchers, but they recently rebranded to just WW. A lot of people still refer to the company by the long name, so I’m using both interchangeably.

I wrote a few days ago about my decision to count calories. Or, if not count calories, at least track everything that I eat.

This decision comes as I realize that I need to take my health (and the health of my lower back!) seriously. Not so much focused on a number when it comes to weight loss, but on my back feeling less pressure, feeling strong and healthy.

I’ve Tried WW Before

At the end of 2011, I was about as heavy as I am now. In 2010, I had surgery on my lower back which eliminated running from being my principal exercise.

In 2012, starting a new life in a new place, I decided to try and make some changes. I signed up for what was then Weight Watchers, which is now officially WW.

In the first week, I felt seriously hungry. I remember breaking down in tears at the thought that this was my future: feeling hungry all the time.

It Got Better

Gradually, it got better and just by tracking and eating less (not exercising regularly), I did manage to lose a good 10kg in about nine months.

I noticed, though, that Weight Watchers steered me heavily towards low-fat and low calorie options, and encouraged a lot of fruit consumption (high in sugar).

I was doing WW online, and I liked the app and the relative ease of tracking. However, putting all my recipes in (since I do mostly cook from scratch) was pretty tedious, and the database of known Canadian ingredients wasn’t huge.

At one point, when I had hit a plateau and wanted to try and re-motivate myself, I attended a couple of meetings.

Meetings Were a No-Go

The meetings heavily pushed Weight Watchers products. There were always arrays of packaged “healthy” foods: treats, salty snacks, prepared meals, all branded.

That was a bit of a turn-off. Also, the focus of the meetings didn’t seem right to me.

Instead of talking about making healthy lifestyle changes, the leader and other members seemed to focus on how to “cheat.”

They were constantly looking for ways to try and fool their taste buds or their stomachs into thinking they had eaten something they craved, or eaten more.

I stopped attending after two meetings.

Fizzled Out

Eventually, the whole process lost its charm, and my use of the app and tracking fizzled out.

I have actually twice signed up again for WW, only to let it drop. Once in 2018, when we were living in Germany. It is not huge in Germany, and I was using the American site. Tracking the ingredients and foods I was eating there was very difficult, and I soon gave up.

A second time was earlier this year.

Rebranded from Weight Watchers to WW

In early 2020, I tried again. Weight Watchers is now WW and the rebranding has included a revamping of their points system.

You are assigned a color, and based on your color, some foods are “allowed” and others are not.

If you are purple, you get fewer points for eating potatoes than if you are blue, for instance.

I also tried attending meetings again (this was pre-pandemic). But once again, though there was more sharing of tasty recipes in this group, there was a lot of talk about “fooling” yourself into think you’re eating what you’re not.

Already a bit skeptical, when the pandemic hit I didn’t bother to try the virtual meetings. I also found that their points system didn’t work for me, and I gave up tracking again.

Eventually, I canceled my membership yet again.

An Individualized Approach

After thinking about it and wondering why I found it so hard to stick with WW, I have come to a couple of conclusions.

  • Firstly, I don’t like being told what to do by someone (or some entity) I don’t know and respect. With the online version, I don’t have any personal interaction (minus the online discussions, and let’s not even go there). And in the face-to-face meetings I attended, I couldn’t respect the person leading.
  • Secondly, despite having lost weight on WW before, I wasn’t really building lasting habits. I don’t think any app or program can do that for me, and WW certainly didn’t. I lost a lot of weight, looked great in the photos at my wedding, and then went back to old habits.

It’s not like I don’t know what I need to do. And it’s not like I am a weak-willed person who cannot discipline herself enough to build new habits.

But I think that I need something more personalized and more tailored than Weight Watchers offers.

That’s When I Tried Noom.

I’ll tell you about that another time.

(Spoiler alert: IT SUCKED.)

I Am Not a Garbage Disposal

It’s my new mantra.

I have to mutter it to myself 4-5 times a day, as I look at what my children have left on their plates.

This is a huge pitfall for parents trying to lose weight, I have learned.

Still Counting

It’s been about ten days, and I am still counting those calories. Thanks to some very sagacious advice from my godfather, I have also added some strength training to my fitness routine.

There have been good days and bad days. Some days I have too much, other days I don’t even eat all my allotted daily calories (rare), but I’m counting everything.

Some days, I feel perfectly satisfied.

Other days, I feel like I spend the day hungry. I’m convinced it’s psychological, because those days are the ones when I have less going on. I’m not as busy, hovering around the kitchen more.

Those are the days when my kids’ plates are especially dangerous.

Family Rule

We have one kid who simply doesn’t eat a lot, and another kid who is a picky eater. The Bug will taste pretty much anything, but he won’t eat lots of it. The Bear will flat-out refuse to eat things.

To mitigate the exhaustion and unpleasantness that can be mealtimes, we have instituted one simple rule:

One bite of everything.

Whatever foods are on their plates, they must take one bite of each. This can lead to faces, complaints and protests, but generally they comply.

The trouble is that whatever they don’t like gets left on their plates.

Often, the things they don’t like are the things that I love!

After eating, once they’ve cleared their plates to the counter, I have to steel myself before heading to the kitchen to start tidying.

It’s so easy to finish off what they’ve left behind! And it seems like such a waste!

(The worst part is that Chico can finish their plates AND have his own helping of seconds and never bat an eyelash. If I were to do that, I’d see the difference on the scale the very next morning.)

Building Up the Willpower

Different people have different approaches to this problem. I’ve heard of people squirting dish soap on their kids’ plates as soon as they get to the kitchen in order to avoid the temptation.

What’s helped me, though, is the knowledge that I must write everything down.

Today, the school-provided lunch was “pizza crunchers.” Basically, fried balls of mozzarella stuffed with tomato sauce. Neither of the kids liked them very much, and they left most of them on their plates.

The golden lumps of fat gleamed up at me from their plates. Their siren call was in their smell. They smelled delicious.

Just one bite, I told myself.

I picked one up, but instead of feeling a crispy crust between my fingers, all I felt was a soggy, smooshy lump.

That broke the spell. I dropped it back onto the plate (splat!), quickly carried it into the kitchen and emptied it into the garbage.

Whew! That was close!

Feeling Pretty Good

I managed to resist temptation. I was feeling pretty good about myself.

And then the boys and I baked brownies.

Making A Decision

Earlier this year, towards the beginning of the pandemic, I made a decision.

I decided I would write every day. As regular readers know, it started off as a creative writing challenge. I did many, many posts based off of some creative writing prompts I found online.

Lately, it’s evolved from that. It’s just become a habit. Instead of following the creative writing prompts, though, I’ve gotten into a groove of coming up with my own topics and writing (if not daily) pretty regularly.

Another Decision

A couple of months after making my first decision, I made another.

This time, I decided I would exercise. At first I said daily, but knowing myself I knew that wasn’t sustainable. So I set myself a goal of 4 times a week.

Seeing as the first decision I’d made had worked out so well, I was optimistic about this. It helped that Chico got us an exercise bike!

Sticking to It

I’m proud to tell you that (so far) I’m sticking to both these decisions.

Some days are better than others, but on the whole I’ve written and I’ve exercised on average four days a week for a few months now.

Each time I hit “publish” or get off the exercise bike, I feel proud. I feel like I’m doing something positive for myself, and it feels great.

I decided to do both of these activities (writing and exercise) for my own mental and physical wellbeing. Writing challenges my brain, and cycling pushes my body.

And I feel their positive effects daily.

Time to Make a Third Decision?

But now I think it’s time to make another decision.

I’m a bit nervous about writing this here, to be honest. It feels risky. I could be setting myself up to potentially feel very crappy about this if I fail.

And by telling you all about it, you’ll all know if I fail!

Oh well. Here goes…

I’ve decided to change my eating habits.

Breaking it Down

That’s a huge thing. So I’m breaking it down into one key element:

I’ve started (ugh, I shudder to think of it!) to count calories. Specifically, to use a free food tracking app called MyFitnessPal.

If writing is a pleasure, and exercising is a challenge, calorie counting is (let’s face it) a bit of a chore.

I have come to the conclusion, however, that this one act, this practice of tracking what I eat, will significantly contribute to both my mental and physical wellbing.

When I Look In the Mirror

Now, when I look in the mirror, or when I see photos of myself, I shudder. I am heavier than I’ve ever been (aside from the end of my pregnancies, but that doesn’t count).

The image I have in my own mind of myself does not match what I see in the mirror or in photos. And it’s jarring every time I’m faced with the reality of how I actually look.

Also, despite increased exercise, my weight has not budged. That means that the pressure on my back is the same.

While I am stronger and my heart and lungs are definitely healthier, I can still feel the stress that my excess weight puts on my lower back.

Realistic Expectations

I’m not trying to look good in a bikini. I’m not even trying to weigh as little as I did in college. My goal is modest, and is really based on a feeling more than a number.

Writing makes me feel more creative, more observant and sharper. Exercising makes my lungs and heart feel stronger, and I don’t feel winded walking up the stairs, or chasing after my boys.

By counting calories (and watching how I eat), I hope to improve my digestive health, feel even more energetic, and feel good about the way I look.

Now I’ve Told You

So now you know. I’ve made this decision. And by telling you all, I hope to hold myself accountable.

If you want to join in, you can look up thebraininjane on MyFitnessPal. Or you can just get in touch and swap stories, share encouragement, ask questions, whatever!

(Now I know that there are programs like Weight Watchers, Noom, etc., and I’ve previously tried them to various levels of success. Maybe I’ll write an article about why these haven’t worked for me.)