What Is Noom and Does It Work?

Noom is not your typical fad diet. There’s no shying away from the fact that fad diets typically don’t work—at least not after a few weeks. Some would call Noom a fad diet because it’s a relatively new, trendy way to lose weight, but the difference lies in the approach. Instead of promising rapid weight loss in just a couple of weeks, Noom promises lifelong weight loss and renewed healthy habits.

People who leave positive reviews for Noom often mention how the program changed their life in one way or another, and if you want to lose weight for the long-term, a life change is exactly what needs to happen. 

Still, Noom isn’t the right weight-loss plan for everyone (there’s no single “best” way to lose weight, because everyone is different in so many ways)—read on to learn how Noom works, what the app is like, pros and cons, and if you should try out Noom for weight loss and fitness.  

What Experts Say

Noom goes beyond meal plans and tracking calories. It includes a behavioral component that might help users dig deeper into the whys and hows of achieving a healthy lifestyle. It is important to caution that this app is not appropriate for anyone coping with or at risk for disordered eating.

Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD

What Is Noom?

Noom is a psychologically-driven digital weight-loss program that uses an app to deliver support from certified health coaches. Cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of talk therapy used in clinical psychology settings, is the basis behind Noom’s weight loss program.

Essentially, instead of trying to induce significant weight loss in a short amount of time, Noom takes a wide-angled and long-term approach to health. The app attempts to teach people how to think about their health from more perspectives than purely body weight, and to understand how good nutrition impacts more than just body weight.

What Is the Noom Diet Plan?

Noom, contrary to popular belief, is not actually a diet plan in the typical sense. That is, there are no off-limits foods or structured eating windows. Think of Noom as more of a lifestyle shift that involves healthy eating, exercise, and other parts of a healthy lifestyle, including stress management and sleep.

However, nutrition does play a big role in the Noom program given its important role in weight management. Noom uses the color approach to nutrition: It labels foods as green, yellow, or red based on their nutrient density.

Typically, green-labeled foods have more nutrients and fewer calories, while red-labeled foods have more calories and fewer nutrients. Yellow foods fall somewhere in between. If you’re not used to counting calories, the Noom diet plan may feel a bit jarring—and tough to keep up with—at first.

To track your food, you can search the Noom food database of more than 150,000 items, or scan supported barcodes on packaged foods. You can also log your food manually, which is helpful for those who like to cook homemade recipes.

How Does Noom Work?

At its core, Noom works like many digital weight-loss programs: You enter some information about yourself and the app uses an algorithm to build a weight-loss and fitness plan customized to your health status, demographics, goals, and more.

First, you’ll choose whether you want to “get fit for good” or “lose weight for good.” Then, Noom will open up a quiz for you to complete, and it builds your plan off of your responses.

  • Enter your demographics: Noom asks for your age, current weight, height, and sex to start building your plan.
  • Specify your goals: Next, Noom asks about your health goals, specifically how much weight you want to lose.
  • Take the lifestyle quiz: Noom will then take you through a series of questions about your work life, relationships, your motivation to lose weight, and other factors that will affect your final weight-loss plan. One nice thing about this part is that Noom asks about your interest in other weight-loss factors, such as brain health, digestion, sleep, and energy levels that you may not have considered before.

Once you’re all set up, you get matched with a health coach and you can begin working toward your health goals. You’ll use the Noom app for everything, including:

  • Logging and tracking your food and portion sizes (by searching the Noom database or scanning barcodes)
  • Tracking your water intake
  • Logging and tracking your exercise
  • Communicating with your health coach and receiving one-to-one coaching during business hours
  • Logging health metrics like your heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Reading health articles and taking quizzes

Noom Coaching

With Noom’s Healthy Weight Program, what you see is what you get—there are no tiers that receive less or more support. The Healthy Weight Program offers 24/7 access to a health coach through a chat service on the app, but you should note one important detail: You only have access to your assigned coach during normal business hours, wherever you are.

So if you’re having a problem at midnight or 5 a.m., you can still reach out through the chat service, but you’ll likely be talking to someone who doesn’t know your health history, dietary preferences or other important factors that they need to know in order to coach you.

This approach will work for some people, and for others it won’t—it’s up to you to decide if you can forego face-to-face coaching and 24/7 access to the coach who knows the most about you. It is worth noting that you likely wouldn’t have 24/7 access to a coach if you signed up for a one-on-one digital weight-loss program either, so no one can really knock Noom for setting communication boundaries for their coaches.

How Much Does Noom Cost?

In 2020, Noom’s flagship program, the Healthy Weight Program, costs $59 per month, or $99 every two months.

If you’re hesitant about paying for Noom, you can sign up for a free 14-day trial. You can cancel at any point during the trial without being charged, provided you didn’t subscribe to anything within the app while you were using it. 

If you forget to cancel, you’ll be charged $99 on the 15th day, and Noom will continue to charge you $99 every two months until you cancel. To cancel, simply let your coach know within the app.

Noom also has a Diabetes Prevention Program that has been endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for its efficacy. The Diabetes Prevention Plan costs $89.99 per month, but it includes more perks than the Healthy Weight Program, such as a specific focus on blood sugar control.

Noom Scientific Studies

Despite its relative newness to the wellness scene (Noom was founded in 2009), Noom has quite a body of scientific literature behind it. In fact, Noom’s Diabetes Prevention Program is the only fully digital program endorsed by the CDC.

Here are some key studies about Noom and whether the program works:

  • In one 2016 study of more than 35,000 people, researchers found that 77% of Noom users reported losing weight after using the app for nine months.
  • Another 2016 study—this one on the Diabetes Prevention Program—found that the participants all showed significant weight loss after 16 and 24 weeks of using Noom. This study was limited, however, in that it didn’t compare Noom to another diabetes diet, so it’s hard to make any conclusions about Noom over another diet plan.
  • A 2017 study showed that after 12 weeks of using Noom, participants lost an average of 7.5% of their body fat, and after one year, they had maintained a loss of 5.2%.
  • This 2017 study shows that Noom’s psychological approach is scientifically grounded and can lead to significant weight loss with self-adherence from the participant.

Noom Pros and Cons

Noom, like all diet and weight loss plans, has benefits and drawbacks. You should carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of a plan like Noom before downloading and beginning the program.

What We Like
  • Certified health coaches

  • Psychological approach

  • Focus on the long-term

  • Focus on eating whole foods

  • All-in-one support

  • Scientifically supported

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Language can be somewhat degrading

  • No face-to-face option

  • Requires intense commitment

Pros

Certified health coaches: All of Noom’s health coaches go through a four-week training from Noom to become proficient in cognitive behavioral therapy, the method that drives Noom’s weight-loss program. However, not all Noom coaches are certified outside of the Noom training program (more on that under the cons below). 

Psychological approach: Cognitive behavioral therapy is a proven psychological method that helps you understand the relationship between your feelings, thoughts and behaviors.

This type of therapy can help you identify feelings about food, fitness or wellness; recognize how those feelings influence your thoughts; and understand how those thoughts turn into actions. By recognizing and understanding that relationship, you can take control of your health.

Focus on the long-term: Because of Noom’s psychological approach, the basis of the program lies in habit change, and habit change is how you lose weight for the long-term. Rather than inducing rapid weight loss for the first few weeks, Noom aims to help you develop a sustainable mindset around food, fitness, and wellness.

Focus on eating whole foods: With Noom, you won’t ever have to buy frozen meals, premade shakes, or protein bars—the focus is eating healthy for life, which means selecting foods that satisfy both your taste buds and your body. Noom’s color approach (red, yellow and green foods) helps you choose nutrient-dense foods without sacrificing your weight loss goals.

All-in-one support: Noom acts as your health coach, nutritionist, personal trainer and accountability buddy all at the same time. If you’re the kind of person who likes to minimize app clutter on your phone and prefers all of your health data in one place, Noom could be a great fit for you.

Scientifically supported: A number of scientific studies back up Noom’s approach to weight loss, as evidenced above.

Cons

Expensive: At a minimum of $59 per month, Noom costs more than many are willing or able to spend on weight loss help.

Language can be somewhat degrading: While Noom’s user experience is designed to be motivating, it might feel derogatory to some people. For example, the app and website use language such as “conquer your food triggers,” which can feel insulting to people who really do struggle with food triggers or emotional eating

No face-to-face option: If you thrive on face-to-face coaching, Noom might not be the right choice for you. You won’t get in-person coaching, nor video coaching — everything is done through the chat service.

Coaches might not be experts: It’s true that all Noom health coaches are approved by the National Consortium for Credentialing Health & Wellness Coaches and that Noom’s health coach training platform, Noomiversity, is approved by The National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching. However, that doesn’t mean all of their coaches are certified nutritionists, registered dietitians, personal trainers, doctors, or any other credentialed health professional outside of Noom’s independent training program.

Color approach can cause problems: While the color-labeling approach to food selection works for some people, for others, it can result in disordered eating habits or an unhealthy relationship with food. For example, almond butter is labeled as a red food because of its high calorie content, but almond butter is a perfectly healthy food when eaten in moderation.

If you’re trying to lose weight, it is important to understand the caloric density of foods, but it’s also important to maintain a healthy relationship with all foods.

Requires intense commitment: If you really want to get your money’s worth with the Noom app, you’ll have to put in your all. That means logging all of your food, water intake, exercise, as well as communicating with your coach, meal planning and doing everything you need to do in order to keep your goals on track.

Noom might feel really intense for some people who aren’t ready for a commitment that big, especially because it’s a service you have to pay for. In fact, Noom prompts you with a “Fair Trial Disclaimer” before you finish the sign-up process, saying: “We only ask you to spend at least 5 minutes a day using Noom… If you don’t, maybe this isn’t the best time for you to try Noom so you should cancel the program before your trial ends.” This is another example of Noom’s somewhat flippant language that might be off-putting to some. 

If it sounds like too much for you at this time, you might instead try a free diet app and focus on one change at a time: First shift your eating patterns to be healthier, then start adding in exercise, and so forth.

A Word From Verywell

Noom has definitely established its place in the world of diets, weight-loss programs and digital health apps, even running up against legacy programs like WW (formerly Weight Watchers). It’s clinically validated to help people lose weight, and much of its success likely stems from its behavioral therapy-inspired approach. That Noom is federally endorsed for its diabetes management program means a lot: Not many independent diet and weight-loss programs receive this type of recognition.

Noom can be a great choice for people who need help developing sustainable, healthy habits that allow them to lose weight and keep it off in the long run, but may not be the right approach for those looking for a quick way to lose weight (although you should consider sustainable weight loss over quick weight loss, anyway).

As with all things, you’ll have to consider whether Noom supports your health, fitness and weight management goals. If you’re still comparing your options, consider learning about these other programs:

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Article Sources
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