Each quarter, our wellness team tries and reviews a popular wellness trend. This quarter, we're trying weight management apps, and Morgan sees what Noom is all about.
Noom is a behavior change app that “creates long-term results through habit and behavior change, not restrictive dieting.” Noom uses evidence-based curricula, live coaches trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), real-time tracking and data collection, and in-app community support to help people reach their health goals.
How It Works
Users start by answering a health questionnaire, which asks things like current weight, goal weight, current eating and exercise behaviors and health history. New users get paired with a personal ‘goal specialist’, essentially a trained coach, who can review food logs and help users create and stick to their goals. Goal setting is a huge component of the Noom platform. Users also get assigned to a group for support. Beyond the support provided, each day users are asked to log their weight and complete a handful of activities which include little educational nuggets, checking in with their goals, and checking in with their coach and support group. Users are also expected to log their food throughout the course of the program, and can set custom reminders to help them do so.
Fitness Tracking – ★
Noom definitely isn’t designed to be a fitness-focused app. In fact, they say, “Noom’s wellness and weight loss philosophy is actually much more food-focused than exercise-focused. Our philosophies support powerful behavioral change, which can and will lead to weight loss when followed. Exercise is not necessary in order to achieve weight loss, but is certainly beneficial for a variety of health reasons, so if you are physically able to exercise and do so, don’t let us stop you. Keep up with your workout routine!”
Within the app, there aren’t prescribed workouts or exercises like some of the other apps we tried. You can track your activity with a pretty basic log, which asks you what activity you performed and for how long. It will also pull in steps from your Health app. Everyone’s step goal starts at 2,000 steps. Once you reach that target, your step goal will slowly increase. Noom will also take half the calories you burn during activity and add that to your daily calorie budget.
Food Tracking – ★★★★
The food tracking component is an important part of Noom’s core structure. You will be prompted to log your food throughout the day and can even set reminders of when you’d like to be pinged to log. This is really nice for folks (like myself) who often forget to log their food. The actual logging can be a bit cumbersome, like so many of the food tracking apps out there. As with most of these apps, it’s easiest to log packaged food by simply scanning the barcode on the product. However, we know that homemade food is almost always healthier than packaged food, but definitely harder to log. For homemade food, you have to manually add each item but can save that recipe for future logging.
You can see how many calories you’ve had throughout the day. Noom also provides a breakdown of calories by color code: green for most fruits and veggies, yellow for foods that have more calories and/or less healthy nutrients per serving and should be incorporated in moderation like lean meats and starches, and red for foods that are the most calorie-dense and/or have the least healthy nutrients like red meats and dessert dishes.
Your assigned coach can review your food logs to provide helpful feedback and tips for moving forward, which sets Noom apart from other apps.
Users are asked to commit ten minutes a day to completing small activities which include logging your weight, reading through short and engaging educational and motivational content, logging your food and engaging with your support group or coach.
Every step of Noom feels intentional. The app limits just how much information you get each day and how much it asks of you. I found that the short nuggets of information, along with the small and manageable goals, made me excited to open the app each day and definitely eager for more.
This format would be fantastic for someone who is ready and committed to making changes, but could be overwhelming for those who are on the fence about getting started or who aren’t ready to put in the time. You can set reminders on Noom of when you’d like to be pinged to log breakfast, lunch and dinner, which I found incredibly helpful.
This is really where Noom excels and differentiates itself from other weight loss apps. On day two, new users meet their personal ‘goal specialist,’ who helps you set goals, reviews your food logs, holds you accountable and helps guide your weight loss journey. My goal specialist started by reviewing my ‘big picture’ goal, then asked me to stick to tracking for the next couple of days. I appreciated that he didn’t tell me to track my food, but asked if I’d be down to try it. He also asked me to think on which areas of my life I’d like to work on. The next time we connected (via the messaging portion of the app, which functions a lot like instant message within the app, although it’s not always instant) we talked through my tracking and the first small goal that I wanted to work on. I was capital-T Terrible at tracking my food but didn’t get any flak for it! In fact, my coach encouraged me to keep trying so that I could figure out a way that tracking worked for me, my goals and my lifestyle! Very encouraging. My overall experience with my personal goal specialist was a 10/10.
On my second week, I was assigned to my group and group coach. Unfortunately, I only signed up for a 14-day trial so my introduction to this component was somewhat limited. I was able to interact with the group for introductions, which included telling the others (maybe 10-12 other folks) our name, where we live and why we joined Noom. I could definitely see how this group could be motivational throughout the full journey.
Ease of Use ★★★★
Noom is fairly intuitive to navigate and use once you get oriented to the app. I really enjoyed the messaging feature with my personal goal coach, and found that incredibly easy to use and highly encouraging. Each day you open the app, you see a list of short ‘assignments’ for the day that you can easily click through to complete. The first assignment every day is to log your weight. You also have assignments to log your food each day. The remaining assignments are short educational and motivational tidbits that correlate with where you are in your journey. In the first few days, the assignments focused on understanding Noom’s process and how to use the app. Slowly, the assignments started to integrate more education (like how to choose nutrient-dense foods and get more steps.) and motivation.
My least favorite and in my opinion least user-friendly portion of the app is the food tracking component, which I struggle with in most apps of this kind. I feel like these apps discourage eating homemade foods by making it so hard to log them, which is counterintuitive to eating healthier. However, it did try to make it as easy as possible by giving you common serving sizes and allowing you to look up foods. For example, if eating carrots, you could simply search for carrots. The next page would give you common serving sizes like 1 cup, ½ cup, 3 large carrots, etc.
The program that I completed was Noom’s 14-day trial, which was not free. I was given the option to pick how much I thought was fair for the trial, which I thought was unique but reasonable. I ultimately went with the most popular choice of $10.
I was then prompted to add additional features for a hefty price, including a custom workout plan for $39 (originally $100) and a custom meal plan for $59 (originally $100). I declined all the offers and just went with the basic Noom plan.
I had access to all of the key features of Noom with my trial, including the personal goal specialist and the group support. The fourteen days flew by and before I knew it, I saw a $129 charge on my card from Noom. Evidently my trial had ended and I had been enrolled in the 4-month plan, at $129 or $32/month. I would have appreciated a heads up that I was close to my expiration date. I did have to contact customer service to get a refund, but the process was fairly painless. $30+/month is certainly steep for a behavior change app when there are so many other options out there. However, I do feel like it would be a great choice for someone who really wanted to make some changes in their life and who had tried on their own without much success. This app would be great for someone who either already has a solid exercise routine in place or for someone who isn’t quite ready to tackle the exercise piece just yet. Noom would also be great for someone who has struggled with weight loss in the past and perhaps feels uncertain of how to start or how to be successful this next go around. The support that Noom provides is bar-none in my book and would be worth the monetary commitment for someone who is ready to commit. I would not recommend this app for someone who is unsure about starting their journey, as it is a large time and money commitment.
After canceling the paid plan, I still had access to the app, but with a very different experience. The only features still available were essentially the logs for weight, food, exercise, etc. Gone was my access to the personal coach and the engaging daily assignments. Without the support component, this app definitely loses its steam.
In a nutshell: If you’re looking for support and encouragement, are serious about making healthy lifestyle changes, and are willing and able to make a monetary commitment, Noom is for you.