You’ve seen the commercials.
Normal-looking people—not particularly thin or in shape—talking about how this thing called “Noom” has changed their life.
“I feel like I’ve been on a diet my entire life,” says one women, “and then I tried Noom.”
So WTF is this Noom magic and how does it work?
Well, that’s the part. Noom’s marketing efforts—on TV ads, on social media—are incredibly (and likely purposefully) vague. This is what it says on its Instagram profile: “Start today and lead a healthier life!”
I had to find out.
To be honest, I could stand to lose a few pounds. (Or, like, 10.) I’m not a dieter. I have never signed up for any meal plans or calorie-counting program. I’ve managed my weight through regular exercise and a lot of small meals throughout the day. But since many of those “meals” consisted primarily of Sun Chips and Slurpees, I’ve put on a few extra pounds that I can’t seem to run/hike/swim/surf away.
So my nagging curiosity combined with a need to lose weight and guess what? I signed up for Noom.
Simply put, Noom is an app on your phone that helps you track your weight, monitor what you eat and provides information about how to make better choices and lead a healthier life. It also connects you with a community of people in similar situations with the hopes that the social aspect—meaning, the accountability—will keep you motivated.
There’s nothing earth-shattering about Noom. You won’t get a secret formula for weight loss and it doesn’t believe in the elimination method, where you basically deny yourself that cake or fried chicken (or bag of Sun Chips). On Noom, you can literally eat whatever you want—just in moderation.
You don’t even need to exercise, though it’s suggested. It’s really up to you.
Here’s how it works: You sign up on Noom.com, then download the app to your phone. You have to take a very short personality quiz, likely to match you for members of your support group and figure out how long it may take you to lose the number of pounds you indicate you want gone. (It said it would take me about six weeks to lose 10 pounds.)
All you have to do then is open the app every day—whenever you want—and enter your weight, log your meals and complete your daily tasks, which are usually just short (and fun and informative) articles to read or quizzes to take.
I know what you’re thinking: Who’s got time for reading and quizzes?
I thought the same. But these “tasks” take between 5 and 10 minutes a day, and I’d usually complete them when I was walking the dogs in the morning. And the articles were actually interesting. Like how some foods have a higher caloric density than others—you want to eat foods with a lower calorie density, FYI—and how your environment (office, kitchen, car) can influence what and how often you eat.
No foods are off limits on Noom. But they are categorized—green (eat as much as you like), yellow (eat in moderation) and red (watch your intake)—and the app breaks down what you’re eating into these categories for you, so you can see the food choices you’re making throughout the day. (Side note: I found it strange that hummus was categorized as a “red” food, but Leonard’s malasadas—yes, that was on the list!— was classified as “yellow.” I mean, I’m not complaining. Just thought that was odd.)
The idea is to change your behavior when it comes to food. No diet plan or gym membership is going to work unless you realize what you’re doing and, maybe more importantly, why you’re doing it. Yeah, it gets deep.
The first two weeks are free. After that, it’s about $59 a month (depending on your plan) and you have access to an online support group of users who are on similar weight-loss journeys are you. (You can also access a professional support specialist, though I never did.) In my group, there were about 25 of us, mostly from the U.S. (though we had at least one Canadian). Most were women around my age, many with kids, many who had done other weight-loss programs. It’s up to you how much you want to engage in this community. (I tried to post once a day and read what others had posted. I learned that you can dust grapes with Jell-O powder, for example. I still need to try that.)
The two things that I found super useful and the key to weight loss are really what makes up Noom: daily weigh-ins and food logging. The “tasks” keep you engaged in the app, which means you’re often thinking about what you’re eating. You know you have to log your afternoon snack, so do you really want to eat that bag of frosted animal cookies?
And getting on the scale every day—not the best start to a Monday, for sure—is keeping you focused on your goal that day: to make better choices. And, when you see your weight dropping, it can be a powerful motivator.
Noom has one of the better food-logging interfaces I’ve seen/used. It’s really easy to input what you’ve eaten, and the app has a ton of restaurant and pre-packaged foods in its database. You can even scan the barcode on most food items and it will call up their nutritional information. I mean, Zippy’s chili was in there!
So did it work?
I stuck it out for about a month, then canceled my subscription and now only use the app to log my weight and meals. In that month—and I didn’t feel like I was doing anything differently—I wound up losing about five pounds. I still ate doughnuts and malasadas—you see my Instagram feed!—but knowing I had to log them down did make me pause. I did eat better—more veggies and fruits—and was more motivated to hit my daily step goal. (The more you exercise, the more calories Noom gives you to consume.)
So would I recommend it? Yes, but you have to be self-disciplined, committed and honest. There are no shortcuts with Noom. You actually have to do the work.
Can you lie about your food intake, about your weight? Sure! But then it won’t work—and you’ll be out $59 that month. That’s a lot of doughnuts!