You know those movies where there is a couple who is separated by some great distance? And both of them are looking up at the moon, reassured that somewhere, their loved one is doing the same thing? That somehow knowing the moon is always there in the night sky, no matter where they are, is comfort enough? Well, believe it or not, that's what Noom strives to do for its users. Don't believe me? Take a second and spell Noom backwards!
In an interview with the Associated Press, its CEO and co-founder, Saeju Jeong, is quoted as saying "It’s moon backward. Because Noom services, we are a companion. Changing behavior, looking for a healthy lifestyle, it’s such a journey; it never ends. We are the best companion for every single user, just like the moon is the guide and companion of your journey in the dark."
So, I'm a total sucker for the moon. I actually find it incredibly calming to look at it, and have been known to stare at it pretty intently when it likes to show off. Needless to say, I love how they are trying to connect the app with something that really is as important and dependable as the moon.
Here's the thing though; although we are all looking up at the same moon, we all see that moon just a little bit differently. The southern hemisphere sees the moon totally flipped from the northern hemisphere. Others will see it low in the sky at one point in the evening, only to look out again and see it tilted and much higher later on. During lunar eclipses, only a portion of the globe will get to experience it due to timing and where they are in the world.
And honestly, this is kind of how I look at Noom. It's the same application for all of us. Always there on our phones, ready to help us in our health journey. But how we see it in relation to our life is going to be completely different. Some of us may see it as strictly a weight-loss journey and only use the color-coding food log. Others will use it as a behavioral tool to help them with hard to navigate situations. And some will find that Noom is not the correct application for them at all.
So, five of us here at MSA got together and decided to try out the Noom app for 90 days to see what all the hype was about. In case you missed our previous check-ins about the app, or have literally never heard of it until now (no worries, that was me 90 days ago!), it is a weight-loss program that uses behavioral psychology lessons to help you change your eating and lifestyle habits. Instead of just telling you not to eat a particular food, they go into the science of why your body is craving it, why you shouldn't eat it, and how to say no to it. They also have a whole slew of lessons on how to mentally get through social situations like nights out, parties, work breaks, etc. It's good stuff... if you are the right person it's aimed at.
What do you mean if I am the right person?
So this is, in my opinion, Noom's greatest downfall. There is a very specific type of person that these lessons are aimed at. And if you are that person, that's great! Unfortunately, not all of us were. In fact, two of us had eerily similar opinions when it came to whether we felt Noom was personalized towards us.
Noom did not feel personalized for me. I think the app caters best to someone who works a 9-5 job, eats three meals a day, has no dietary restrictions, and is able bodied. For example, I only eat lunch and dinner. I’ve continued to do so despite Noom emphasizing the importance of eating breakfast in several of its lessons. I also don’t work a traditional office job. When Noom offers advice on how to eat effectively with coworkers, or how to alter bad snacking habits in the break room, those things simply don’t apply to me.
Noom is not geared towards a mom who doesn't work in a traditional office setting. It is geared towards someone who works a 9-5 job. Which personally, I only know a handful of people who actually have that sort of lifestyle. My husband doesn't fit this mold either as he doesn't work normal hours, nor does he have an office he goes into. So when I showed him a few of the lessons, he was unable to relate as well. In fact, out of all of my close family and friends, I know exactly two people who fit this mold. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are a ton of people out there that could relate, but they certainly are not in my circle.
At the end of the day, I don't feel like Noom was personalized enough to match me and my personality and the way I form habits. I would still recommend it to friends and family, especially ones who could use some solid food education (I think that is their best feature, honestly) and are highly self-motivated to make some changes and have the time to do it. But if you're like me and are at a point in your life where you are overwhelmingly busy, now may not be the time for you to Noom. And that's okay!
Noom goes through daily lessons with its users and will use situations to try and help get the point across. Unfortunately, the situations they talk about is how not to eat the sweets in the break room or how to say no to the hors d'oeuvres being passed around at your late night dinner party. They talk about how to sit down at the dinner table each night and really think about and enjoy the food you are eating. Noom wants you to make time out of your day for self-care and awareness. As I mentioned, these are all really great lessons! And they are definitely something that are beneficial and I'm sure can help a lot of people. But for anyone that doesn't work in an office setting, is running kid's around to their different sports, or is working a crazy amount to hours, these lessons are just not relatable.
So, what did work for all of us?
Even though most of us felt that Noom wasn't personalized, we all agree there were at least a couple good things about the app that we will continue to use in our daily lives. Some of us liked the color-coded food system or thought the food-based lessons were informative. Others enjoyed weighing in each day or chatting with their goal coach.
Here are some of the ways I think Noom is setting me up for success: I actually like weighing myself every day; it's a nice daily check in. I think about what I'm eating during the day because of that, which I like. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. Last night, I reached for the second churro, and I did recall weighing myself in the morning, so it didn't work. However, earlier this week I chose not to have wine at dinner because I just didn't want my body to absorb those calories or enter those foods into Noom. I think all of this is helping me build up that willpower again.
I did like some aspects of Noom that I'll continue to use in my life. For example, the color-coded system to think about what I'm eating helps me balance my meals accordingly. While I wouldn't be as detailed and specific as they want you to be, at least I know how to spot "red foods" that are better to keep under control.
Ninety days in… and my opinion of Noom has stayed largely the same as my 60-day check in. Despite spotty attendance here and there, I still enjoy the overall process of weighing myself in the morning, logging my meals, reading a few lessons, and chatting with my goal coach. The new habits I’ve formed and sustainable changes made to my meals have been very valuable.
The majority of us also agreed that the food-based lessons were the best. These were more informational rather than behavioral and it seems that Noom's extensive research into this area really shines through here for a few us.
In the 90 days that we were reviewing this app, I got approximately halfway through. I made it through 110 lessons and my opinion still stands that the first lesson, was the best lesson. The comparison of a handful of grapes to a handful of raisins is the one that I genuinely still think about.
Out of all the lessons, the earliest one on caloric density is still the most impactful! It’s helped change the way I think about calories, portion sizes, and satiety. The lessons about exercise take the runner-up spot. I read these more recently so I haven’t had the time to let the information fully sink in. However, they provided very helpful, timely perspective on the interplay between exercise, food, hormones, and the body. I was considering making changes to my exercise routine before coming across the lessons. Reading them gave me the final push to make a realistic exercise plan and commit to my new routine.
What do we wish Noom did differently?
The logging of our food was overwhelming the one area the majority of us would like to see re-vamped. Most of us found it very frustrating to find accurate options for our food choices. Of course, if you are trying to log a baseball or a dental floss box... you shouldn't have a problem with that one! (Check that hilarious blunder out below!)
My opinion unfortunately did not change either on logging the food. I gave up entirely. I get really annoyed when things don't work as they are advertised. It's a pet peeve of mine. I did try a couple more times, but I found it more time-consuming than anything else. Plus, the calories they gave me really were never enough for my active lifestyle and it just irked me when I saw my food in the red zone. I mean, I get it... cupcakes, Halloween candy, sure, those things should be red. But when they talk about everything in moderation, and then give you a caloric goal of a child, it seems a bit disingenuous.
Honestly, my biggest frustrations revolved around food logging. Granted, this frustration is not exclusive to Noom. I felt the same way when using MyFitnessPal to track calories several years ago. That said, Noom’s food logging system has its quirks. During my last 30 days, I ran into green vs. orange vs. red food labeling confusion more times than I could count. Also, when I couldn’t easily figure out how to break down a complex meal into smaller components, I’d just give up. And then, I found this:
Others didn't enjoy logging their food due to how they felt while doing it. Noom talks a lot of about positivity, but unfortunately for some people they experience negativity from the food logging portion of the app.
The part of Noom I dreaded the most was definitely the logging. I dreaded logging my weight every day, my water intake, my meals. It felt like this person was judging me every day. If my weight went up, I could see it. If I treated myself to a burger, suddenly I was above my "allowed" foods for the days. It was just a lot of negative feedback from the app. I'm not surprised that my weight only fluctuated a few pounds up and down.
I didn't love the color system that much- I found it frustrating when I thought I was making a healthy choice for a meal or snack but it wasn't a green food in Noom. Of course, Noom tells you that yellow and red foods aren't bad foods (it's based on caloric density and not the overall nutrition profile of the food, after all), but my mind definitely made that correlation anyways- and I do think that affected my eagerness to log everything I ate after a few disappointing yellows and reds.
The Final "Weigh-In"
So, what was the final score with Noom for all of us? Well, it looks like it was 3-2. Three of us will continue to use the app, while two of us will be happy to delete it off our phones and never look back. Noom is a very specific weight-loss app that won't work for everyone, but for other's it might be exactly what they need and have been waiting for. If you have been following this journey, you will also remember we had a 6th reviewer who dropped out in the very beginning with concerns of bad habits and tendencies rearing its ugly heads. This was a legitimate concern and if you are someone in a similar situation just be aware that Noom has caused issues for some in the past. Here are our final thoughts on Noom and if we intend to continue with the app beyond this review.
I still plan on continuing with the Noom app. I haven't finished the courses and I'm curious about what else they have to teach me. I definitely won't be hitting that 70-pound weight loss goal in 10 months, but I do feel that my clothes are fitting better and that the number on the scale has gone down a little bit. Honestly, I think a big part of that is because of my focus on trying to walk more, as well as getting Blue Apron every week (I was getting burnt out on cooking and grocery shopping, which meant I was ordering takeout a lot).
To be honest, as I'm writing the last review of my Noom experience, I can only think of one word – relieved. For the past 90-days, trying to keep up with this challenge and find ways to love this app and process. While I'd like to say that many of my early opinions have changed, the truth is that they haven't. For me, in particular, Noom didn't hit the nail that I was looking for. I still believe it's a tricky approach to weight loss that could potentially trigger anxiety in many users.
Noom is my Monica from Friends cheering me on in an annoying but loving way. Even though this 90 day period is over, I'm still sticking with this. There's a red jumpsuit that just needs to see the light of day again this spring.
My final opinion on Noom is that I would not recommend this to a friend or family member. I have seen the reviews where it did work for others, and honestly that makes me incredibly happy for them. I truly believe that you have to find what wrks for you and go with that. For me, this wasn't it.
I’m happy to report that Noom will remain on the first page of my smartphone after this review is complete. Despite the occasional frustrating food logging experience, or finicky user interface stuff, or cheesy writing style, I’m still losing weight! Even on my most unmotivated days, I see the value of continued use of this app. I would recommend this to friends and family but only after being very transparent about who might not be a good fit and that a certain level of commitment is needed to see results. And of course, I’d encourage them to get the most affordable subscription plan!
Have you tried Noom yet? What do you think of it?