We’ve all been there. Wanting, wishing, hoping we can do something to change our weight or unhealthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest things to do for most of us. Taking on a major lifestyle change or starting a new workout routine (and sticking to it!) is difficult even in the best of times. Add to it the on-again/off-again quarantined, stress-inducing, fast-paced world we live in today, and now it’s really an uphill battle.
You are probably wondering, since the difficulty factor is off the charts, how exactly do you keep a healthy lifestyle? Well, I know that the sheer number of health apps certainly doesn’t make things easier. In fact, I counted 248 in my app store, and that was literally just for the search term “weight loss”. 248 apps! And each one promises to change your life by showing you a healthier way to live it. I found this to be not only frustrating, but also condescending.
Losing weight or getting healthier is not something that is going to happen by blindly picking one of the ridiculous amount of apps out there and hoping for the best. It takes hard work, commitment, and the right options. Those options will be different for every single one of us. For you, that may mean a new gym membership or a personal trainer. Maybe its joining a jogging club or trying a new sport. Or yes, even finding the right app to kick start your health journey. The key to all of these though is finding the right option for you.
Since we can’t go around and try out all of your local gyms and jogging clubs, we decided that we would dive into an app that we have heard a lot about (and we mean A LOT). We had organized a small group of MSA team members that were open to trying the Noom app for 90 days. We will be following them through this journey in order to find the good, the bad, and everything in between with this insanely popular weight loss platform.
So, let's get to it!
I was surprised to find out that Noom has been around for about 14 years. It's gone through a lot of changes since its inception, and has really become a powerhouse in the health industry.
I'd recently listened to a podcast interview with the Co-Founder and CEO, Saeju Jeong, detailing the history of his company and I have to say, it’s pretty impressive. Like, starting from nothing and becoming the largest health platform in the world, impressive.
Noom now has 3,000 coaches based around the US (and yes, they are actual humans!) and 300 employees in their NY headquarters. They have had over $400 million in net revenue in the last two years alone, and are worth $3.7 billion (yep...with a B.) They also have the first online Diabetes Prevention Program to become fully certified by the CDC, which is really impressive in its own right.
But is Noom good for me?
In theory, all of this sounds absolutely wonderful, right? But what about in reality? What do actual users think of the app, and are they really achieving the goals that Noom promises them they will? We started to do some research and read a ton of reviews online. Some of what we had heard were glowing reviews that made us want to fork over our money immediately, and other reviews were pretty controversial that made us want to take a huge step back. Either way though, we were very intrigued.
We quickly decided that this was not going to be a one-off article. It needed to be more in-depth and for a longer period of time. Which, is why we all committed to doing the 90-day period with periodic check-ins. We wanted to know which side of the aisle we fell on with Noom. Would it become our go-to health app that we raved endlessly about to our friends? Or would we turn away in disgust, upset that it brought back bad habits from our past that we have worked so hard to get rid of?
The Noom Reviewers
First off, let me introduce the players and share a little bit of information about our health journey up until this point, as well as what our desired goals are with using Noom.
I have always been overweight and it has been a struggle. Now that I am older, I can say that I used to use food as an emotional crutch, and I don’t do that so much anymore, however I still noticed I have a warped sense of what is and isn’t healthy. I remember wanting a “healthy” lunch, but then mentally drawing a blank on what actually constitutes healthy- there are more healthy things out there then just a salad, right? I do have a big sweet tooth too, so it feels like I always have one craving or another. As for my goals with Noom, weight loss would be nice, but more mindfulness overall, and better intuitive eating habits, would be my true goals.
Follow Jessica's individual 90-day journey for insights into her experiences and impressions.
Despite being in a healthy weight range, I've lived a mostly sedentary life. When the pandemic hit and I started staying home 24/7, I noticed that it was harder to keep my weight down. I also have a family history of poor cardiovascular health & high cholesterol, so I want to get on top of those risks early. Another reason for my increased health consciousness was my BMI. A fact that a lot of people don't know is that Asian/Asian Americans are at increased health risk at a lower BMI threshold than their non-Asian counterparts. I was at the threshold for unhealthy Asian BMI, so I wanted to lose weight to become healthier.
These reasons led me to try intermittent fasting last year, which was successful in keeping my weight down... if I fasted regularly. When I stopped fasting though, my weight would go up. So, it wasn't a perfect system for me. Plus, I have never reached my goal weight with intermittent fasting alone.
As for food, I try to eat generally healthy-- a mix of grains, protein, veggies, and fruits. But I didn't really calorie-count because it's too tedious and my mom's home-cooked meals are way too complex to calculate nutrition breakdowns. I LOVE sweets though, and they absolutely did not help my weight loss journey pre-Noom.
Follow Nancy's individual 90-day journey for insights into her experiences and impressions.
I was always a very active person, but since COVID, it's been really hard for me to get back on track. While I eat very healthy most of the time, and I've successfully transitioned to a flexitarian/vegan diet, I struggle with weight in general. To me, more than food it has been an issue with motivation and trying to find things that I can do outside of a fitness studio. I would love for Noom to help me find the motivation to start making more actionable choices when it comes to my health.
Follow Geraldine's individual 90-day journey for insights into her experiences and impressions.
My weight and health journey is definitely something I am actively thinking about and working on (or actively avoiding), but it is a thought in my mind. I'm not someone who can eat whatever she wants and feel the way she wants. Feeling strong and lean is important to me, and eating ties into that so minding my habits is important to me. I'd like to lose my 10 pounds of pandemic weight and get back to feeling more fit for my goals after using Noom.
Follow Salina's individual 90-day journey for insights into her experiences and impressions.
I’m pretty lucky- I’ve always been thin and never really had to work hard at keeping any weight off. Lately though, I’ve kind of felt like my age is creeping up on me and don't feel as comfortable with my body as I used to. I’ve had two awesome and adorable little boys, but I know that didn’t help either, and my mid-section could definitely use some love. I’ve recently joined a Pure Barre gym and I’ve become more toned because of it, but there is still something missing. I haven’t had as much energy in the past year or so and everything just feels a little... well, different.
I am hoping Noom will be the answer to that, and also make me more aware of what I put into my body. Those two little boys I mentioned earlier, also have me eating a lot on the go or stopping for fast food after soccer practices. I would love to have more of a routine and knowledge about how to make healthier meals.
Follow Kelly's individual 90-day journey for insights into her experiences and impressions.
As we were assembling our Noom review team, we had initially planned to have six reviewers, not five. Our sixth reviewer had actually ended up pulling out from their participation in this review because she was concerned that it was conjuring bad habits and tendencies. This actually matches up with a few reviews and controversial discussions that we have found online from both other users and within our very own MSA community. Our co-worker found that weighing herself daily was causing her to become very nervous about triggering an eating disorder. As this is the last thing that any of us want, we have supported her decision to cease participation in this review.
Noom Online Assessment
All of us pretty much had similar thoughts on the online assessment that Noom had us take. It was very in-depth and thorough, asking us about everything from the types of food we eat and how often we eat them, to whether we live in the city or suburbs, citing environmental factors for weight loss. It also had a psychological component, and wanted to know how we felt about certain statements like, "I know what I should be doing to lose weight, but I need a way to do it that fits into MY life."
A couple of us however, were not happy with all of the choice options. Below are two of those.
For the most part, I was happy with the assessment - yes - but there were 1 or 2 questions where the answer choices they offered weren't representative of my experiences. It doesn't impact my impression of Noom in the grand scheme of things, but at that moment I was thinking "oh geez, if my choices for lunch are soup, salad, or sandwich, then they must want me to start eating those things for my Noom diet…"
Overall, I think the Noom assessment was very good. It didn’t rush me through it, which is always my biggest gripe with a lot of these types of questionnaires. That said, I was curious to know how the assessment would change with different answers. Instead of a female in my 30s, I switched to a male in my 40s. I answered everything else almost identically. What annoyed me was that when I said I was a male, they asked me if building muscle or losing fat was more important to me. They did not ask me this as a female. I actually do want to build some muscle, but this was not a question that I was able to answer.
It also asked me as a male if I played sports when I was younger, but not as a female. Ugh! I played soccer from the age of 4 through high school. So, why did the app not ask me that as well!? Would this have changed anything in my results had they asked me these as a female? I honestly have no idea. But, I still felt like I should have been asked, as both of those are big parts of who I was and still am today.
But What About the Timeline?
Noom gives you a timeline for the weight loss goals that you enter. Although we all knew it was a marketing ploy, it was fun to watch our timelines decrease each time we answered a set of questions. I suppose this went towards the psychological factor, offering hope and encouragement to achieve our goals and what not. We all had pretty differing thoughts and opinions on our own individual timelines, however.
I felt my timeline was wildly unrealistic and against everything I have been told by professional nutritionists and doctors. Noom claims I can lose 70 pounds in eight months, and I truly have concerns that it is possible (and if it is possible, is it possible to do safely).
My timeline was to lose ten pounds in two months (from 128 to 118 lbs), which I felt cautiously optimistic about. I've lost weight at that pace in the past, but I'd used a restrictive/fasting diet and didn't enjoy it at all. Therefore, memories of past dieting experiences gave me mixed feelings about the two-month plan. Also, I'm petite at 5' 2" and I know that it's hard to lose those final few pounds when you don't have a lot of body mass to begin with. Hence, cautiously optimistic.
I was happy with the timeline given to me. This was one of the coolest features of the whole quiz. I do think it is doable but, so far, using the app alone, I don't know if it's achievable.
I was happy with the timeline, but is it actually possible?
I was happy with the timeline given to me and felt it was totally appropriate and achievable. I had entered my goal to lose eight pounds, and they gave me a two-month timeline. This seems very reasonable given everything I know about how my body reacts to eating healthier and working out.
Personal Health Coach
One of the features that sets Noom apart from other health applications, is the online goal specialist and coach. As mentioned above, these are real people that are there to answer your questions and concerns in real time. Whether you want to use them for encouragement or have serious questions, they are able to help and come with the purchase of the monthly subscription. While not all of us have taken full advantage of our coach, each of us agreed that this was a great perk.
I have reached out, but only once.
I have interacted with my coach, Olivia, a few times. She tends to reach out to me first. We do check-ins and she tells me she's open if I have any questions about the app or need support (but I haven't yet). I have not felt the need to reach out to her because I've adjusted well to Noom's structure and I don't need emotional support (yet?).
She has been really helpful in showing me more features and things I can do with the app. Although, sometimes I feel she's a bot?
I have not interacted with my coach directly, but her notifications have helped me stay on track... even if they are annoying at times!
I’ve interacted a bunch with my coach. My issue is finding the motivation to stay on track, and sometimes it will be a day or two before I log into the app. I’m trying to find a groove still with it and she has been helpful for that.
Noomin' Through the Lessons
Noom is a behavioral and psychological health-based platform that uses information to try and help you change your habits. The courses start off simple enough, teaching you about caloric density (a handful of grapes is a much healthier choice than a handful of raisins!), and also diving into deeper things such as why we tend to make unhealthy choices more often than healthy ones, and the factors that revolve around it.
I like how the lessons are broken up into segments with easily digestible chunks of info. I don't like how it recommends weighing yourself daily, however. I know they cited a study to support it, but I think that can easily help to create disordered eating habits or unhealthy anxiety for some people. I actually don't own a scale for this specific reason.
I love that they come in bite sized (1-3 minute) chunks because the format just makes them so accessible and easy to do. They feel like quick articles on psychology (which I like), or education on food or dieting or general health (which I really enjoy), or mood boosters/motivational articles (which are meh). However, I would have liked more hands-on guidance at the start of the Noom program than they offered. I needed more onboarding to their app & to their system. Eventually I figured it out, but it would have been nice to get a little more at the get go.
The lessons are very basic so far. I think the way they explain things and different concepts make it really fun to keep up however. To me, reading the lessons has been almost therapeutic every night.
It's nerdy, but it works. The education around caloric density has changed how I shop for groceries and select my meals.
At the core of the lessons I find them to be very helpful, however I really dislike the little clichés and jokes. I know some people find them really cute, but I personally find them a bit cringe-worthy. They don’t affect the overall app though, that’s just a personal preference on my part and overall I’ve learned quite a bit and have even saved a few lessons to go back and read again.
How Much is Noom Per Month?!
We all were given a code to try Noom out for free for 90 days in return for an honest review. With this being the 30-day mark, we wanted to know if anyone would switch to becoming a paid user at this point. Noom is not cheap and after an initial 2-week free trial period, the price is hiked to $66.35 per month on an auto-recurring basis (although the price does drop considerably with an upfront commitment of a longer duration - see our Noom overview article for more details on pricing).
They do offer you a money back guarantee, but still... is it worth that price? Here are our thoughts after the first 30 days.
I haven’t developed a strong enough relationship yet that would make me want to pay to use it.
For $66.35 a month, no. The biggest value I get out of daily Noom use is from the calorie tracking, caloric density color breakdown, step counting, and weight tracking. I find the lessons/courses to be fun, but they don't motivate me to open the app several times a day; the other stuff does. That said, I can find other methods/apps to count my calories, track my steps, and track my weight that do not cost me that much per month. From what I've seen so far, I wouldn't become a paying user.
Honestly? No. To me, I feel there needs to be more structure. Most of the time I feel lost as to what it is that I'm supposed to do to lose the weight... if that makes sense.
If I saw results, I absolutely would.
Currently, no. That is honestly more than what I would pay for most things. If the app was linked up to a meal service where I was sent weekly meals that coincided with what my weight loss goals were, then I might change my mind. I’m not going to give up though. I know it takes awhile to get into a habit, so I’ll keep at it and see if my mind changes!
The Final Say
So, there you have it. Our 30-day review of Noom was not as glowing as some other users, but it also wasn’t all bad. I think the biggest takeaway from this was that 30 days is not enough time to make a fully informed decision.
Most of us were confused by the app in the beginning, as it wasn't the most user friendly, so more time will be beneficial in figuring out all of features. Logging food could definitely use a little work, as not everything is in their system and nutritional information doesn't always match up with what is on the product.
The lessons are definitely legit though and do provide a ton of great information. While I wouldn’t say this could replace a health coach, it definitely comes as close as you get to one virtually.
Whether we all reach our weight loss goals, and the app ends up being worth the $66.35 per month remains to be seen. Stay tuned!
Have you tried Noom yet? What do you think of it?