What the Hell is Noom: Review

You can’t swing a cat video on the internet right now without seeing an ad for noom. Branded as  a phycology based app for loosing wight, personalized coaching especially for millennials, It’s supposed to be an easy list of daily tasks rather than a food logger or fitness tracker and it will only take 10 minutes a day. I signed up for the two week free trial which costs a dollar. I’ll be giving you a run down of that process so you know what to expect but I’ll also be giving you an idea of whether or not I think it will work and who it will work best for. I’ll also be taking a look at the value of this app since it’s pricey at about $65 a month. The last thing I’ll be taking a look at is how healthy it is overall especially if I’m being prompted to things that are likely to lead to yo-you dieting or worse could trigger someone to develop disordered eating behavior. I plan on making use of as many tools as I can while I test it out for ya’ll.

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Spoiler alert: Don’t do it!

A couple of disclaimers this is in no way sponsored by noom. Not at all they don’t know me from a hole in the ground. I also want to take a look at if it’s really aimed at participants or making money. I put in my actual details five foot 8 and 125 pounds with a BMI of 18.8. I said I wanted to loose 5 lbs which would put me at a BMI of 18.1. If I did weigh 120 pounds I’d be fairly underweight and 5 lbs from meeting eating disorder weight criteria. I’m currently logging about 55 km a week in steps and exercising for about 5 hours a week. Basically are they willing to take my money even though there isn’t really a reason for me to use it.?

I usually don’t explain my thought process in writing  a post but I feel like I need to here. I went back and forth on want happened each day or to start with my take aways. I decided that this was the best way to do it so that you know how I reached the conclusions I did. So let’s start with a run down on how each day went and then look at the take aways overall.

Sign up: Day 1

So day one I set my goals as if it was the beginning of this spring do an olympic triathlon and I learned about calorie density. I put in my stats and interestingly they didn’t ring any alarm bells in the app because if there is one thing I don’t need it’s to loose weight. My goal specialist Sarah was assigned to me right away by my program concierge. I read a few blurbs on calorie density and that just believing was enough. I was also told that I should be weighing myself every day which I have some reservations about. You really will need to turn push notifications on for this.

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Weekly weigh ins are enough to keep on top of it and see progress each time you weigh in if you’re trying to loose weight. Daily weigh ins can cause an unhealthy obsession with the number on the scale.

Day 2:

Today I weighed myself logged my meals and created an SOS plan. I said if I don’t log in for 2 days they should email me. I also ran 9 k this morning and went for a morning dip after that I added that to the app about 700 and some calories. Which put my food budget at about 1900 calories for the day so question to keep track of is this just giving me 1200 calories a day? Over 16 weeks if I did want to loose 5 pounds I’d have to have a daily calorie deficit of 150 calories a day. In order to loose 5 lbs in 16 weeks I should be netting about 1600 – 1850 calories a day after exercise. I’ll have to keep an eye on this going forward. At 1200 calories a day for reference I would loose 19 lbs and weigh 106 lbs by the end of the program. My BMI at that stage would be 16.1 and I could conceivably be hospitalized. I’m interested to see what will happen when my goal specialist comes online after the weekend. I also got an automated email at the end of the day asking me if I logged my food for the day, I had. Daily steps 21, 000 that should make someone notice something and tomorrow it’s a 10k at Terry Fox. That said I did have nap today!

Day 3: Today I did all the stuff I did yesterday like logged my meals and wished in. I also got to meet my pedometer today (over 14, 000 steps) and it measures true to my apple watch. And I’ve figured out the calorie thing from yesterday. The default setting is in fact 1200 calories a day. It looks like I’m getting some of those exercise calories back. This alone is pretty much enough for me to say not such a great plan. But I am reserving judgement for a weekday when my goal specialist comes online. I also wonder if I’ll still get those calories ‘back’ in my food budget once the app started telling me to exercise.

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2 meal and one snack a day? If my meals should be 500 – 700 calories each, why are your suggestions in the 300 range. Also I told you I was a vegetarian! Come on guys make it match at least!

 Day 4: Once again I did everything I did yesterday and answered some questions about what sort of eater I am, the fun kind. My goal specialist messaged me today her name is Sarah. She did not change my calorie intake. Remember I ‘want’ to loose 5 pounds and I’m currently down 1 in 16 weeks. My big goal is to do and olympic triathlon. As you can see the number one thing I can do to accomplish this goal is to keep logging my food intake? Also I’m not in a place to be an authority figure on this but don’t her messages seem like they might be automatically generated or copied and pasted, something about the sentence structure just doesn’t seem right. One of the phycology tricks is also to keep quizzing me on the same stuff from previous days. That seems like a good idea if you ask me.

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If you ask me it’s either running, swimming or cycling that is the most important thing you can do to cross olympic off the bucket list!

Day 5: Today was all about poor eating triggers and learning more about that. I also got the calories and exercise thing sorted out too, well because the app told me how it works. You get half of your exercise calories back in your food budget each day. That’s not cool because it already has you running on a 1200 calorie starvation diet so if you move around you’ll actually be net UNDER that by the end of the day. The app also prompted me three times in a row to share my progress on social media channels for a chance to save 20%. Perhaps that’s why I’m seeing ads for it everywhere!

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This means if I move at all during the day the net effect is a starvation diet under 1200 calories a day. I’ll either fail or end up with an eating disorder not cool noom!

Day 6: If there is one legit thing I need to address in my health lifestyle it’s my diet. I love treats like candy and fro yo. Also we probably eat out about 10 times a week on average and it’s mostly fast food. So my diet it could be better. Being vegetarian and mostly fairy free helps a lot. So when prompted to create a SMART goal I picked eat more green (in the app foods low in calorie density) like fruits and veggies. My coach also chimed in and told me to keep logging those meals.

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This actually isn’t a terrible breakdown and is pretty realistic.

Day 7: Today was up at 6 am and roofing until 7 pm, aka dark. So I blew my step count out of the water at 16 000. Today was a good lesson in portion control and not getting off track on the weekend. Those are for running right? This was the day my coach was supposed to get in touch but she did that yesterday a day early.

Day 8: More roofing, man this really is a young person’t game! I learned about the ebb and flow of motivation and recommitted to my ultimate goal by typing out olympic triathlon again.

Day 9: Today I learned how motivation works and the idea of positive reinforcement and punishment. Every day there is a new phycology trick to learn and a few screens to learn about it. At the end there is also a test on what you learned that day and some stuff comes up from other days in the four or five question test as well. Today the app encouraged me to get moving for my first workout and I told them I liked running, check out what they suggested for MY FIRST running workout!

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Simple? Run for 30 minutes straight doesn’t come into the mix until week 10 of a couch to 5k plan. Asking people to run for half an hour straight for the first time is setting them up to fail!

Day 10: Today I kicked my step count right out of the water, 20 000 mostly from a 12.5 km run. After which I had a nap in my truck while waiting to pick up honey, #notoptional! Today again we went over the concept of low calorie density foods and I was told to keep my motivation by mixing up my recipes and workout routes. I really think I’m starting to get what this is all about. Today I also did some digging into other people’s experience with the app. I want to cancel this thing BEFORE I get charged about $100 Canadian for next month. I know that I won’t be getting into what everyone says is the best part of the app by day 14 when my free trial is over which is the support group of peers. Given that this was a Sunday I expect a big old thumbs ip from my coach on Monday when she comes back on Monday for that step count though.

Day 11: No kudos from Sarah today, sad face. I put my wight in today at 122 lbs a whole 2 lbs away from my goal weight. I was tad dehydrated today so that’s actually true but there should be some sort of acknowledgement that I’ll be at my goal weight (not a real goal weight) of 120 lbs this week. I’m not talking about a congratulations but perhaps taking me off a starvation diet would be nice. Since real people are involved in this and my big goal is to do a triathlon shouldn’t something have been tweaked so that my noom app focuses on exercise and not calories by now? Today’s lesson was about taming my inner elephant. I’m the rider and I want to do what’s right but my ‘elephant’ I’m riding has a mind of it’s own. That’s my emotional and impulsive side in case you’re wondering. Today I’ve also had enough, I know what this is all about and I’m ready to lay it on the line. Also cancel, I’m ready to cancel. Off to do that now!

How to cancel and how to pay: You’ll notice I ended up canceling a few days before the 14 day trial was up. I did this just in case there were issues or hoops to jump through in the process. I paid my one dollar by PayPal and I’m thinking that’s a good thing for you to do to. Logging into the website on my computer didn’t show any way to cancel, neither did the settings in the app on my phone. Uh, oh! A quick google search revealed I had to go into my app store and cancel there, no option there either, maybe because I used paypal? So then I was to let my coach or conceriege know I wanted to cancel which I did. But mama didn’t raise no fool, I headed over to paypal and canceled that upcoming pre-approved payment over there which was super straight forward and easy. I immediately got a conformation email of my choice and if that payment does go through I took a screen shot of that cancelation method which should let me win a dispute pater with paypal. So yeah, I recommend using PayPal for this purchase. By the way that payment that was about to go out was for two months in advance! About 12 hours later I got a message from the app confirming my cancelation.

Take aways

I suspect some of it is almost automated coaching

The plan I got and the messages from my coach were not specific to me or my situation at all. What the app puts in front of you is a pre-determined program and my choices didn’t steer me toward my ultimate goal at all. For the most part people using this are trying to loose a significant amount of weight. Then most canned responses are going to make sense. The thing is they sell it as customized coaching specific to you. That’s a bit of a rip off in my opinion for $70 a month for 4 months. For that I $280 I would expect 14 hours of someone’s time or about an hour a week.

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Doesn’t this seem a bit automated if not copied and pasted?

Puts you on a 1200 calorie starvation plan

I have a post in the works about the origin and the myth of a 1200 calorie diet. It’s this reoccurring number and for now you’ll just have to trust me that it’s not for a great reason. Or check out a little but about it in this post. 1200 calories a day is generally regarded at the cut off for starvation so dialing back the calories beyond this point is just nuts. Noom wall itself as a ‘different diet that will actually work’ if you ask me that’s called a sustainable lifestyle change and a 1200 calorie diet or less is not that. Since 1200 calories is under most people’s basal metabolic rate. In other words if you stayed on the noom diet the rest of your life and just laid in bed for the rest of your life you would eventually die. Since they take half of your exercise and step calories back the good news us that will happen a hair faster. So diet wise at least this is just another crazy crash diet.

Doesn’t let you work forward or faster

You’re going at their rate not matter what. This isn’t a bad thing but you’re going at that speed not matter what. The idea is you only have to spend 10 minutes a day doing it. I actually think that this is a pretty good thing. It’s actually kind of cool to log into the app each day and see what’s going to happen. But it means unless you really are just starting your journey you have to pay dearly until the app catches up to you. Say you’re already exercising and eating well but just need some extra support you’re going to spend $100 while it catches up with you.

Just like every other low calorie fad dressed up with phycology

Let me start by saying I don’t know a whole lot about psych stuff, I took the same undergrad intro course and that’s it. Overall you might notice I’m not a huge fan of this diet or exercise wise but there is also a lot about phycology tips, tricks and lessons. I think that this app is mostly about that and this is the designers area of expertise. However I don’t think that justifies the price or the health risks.

Group is best part

I really don’t get to have an opinion on this one because I didn’t stay with noom long enough to bet assigned or interact with my peer group. I watched quite a few videos of people who hated and those that loved the app (suspiciously so) and most people agreed the group chat which I gather comes in at day 14 is the best part. I gather that that is where you are put in a group with a few other noomers and you get to support each-other. That probably is really cool but there must be somewhere you can get that for less money. Maybe start a facebook group or even post on reddit and participate in a regular old group text.

Overall they’re too happy to take your money

I should have stood out in those two weeks as someone that should be fired from noom. But I wasn’t. It’s not all that personalized, it’s not a great diet and it’s not what’s sold to you. I’m going to have to say I don’t recommend the diet portion so strongly that it’s a big ol skip for me. The app will even let you push into dangerous goal weights and let you strive for those.

Who it might work for and how to make it work for you

I wracked my brain to think of who a good noom user would be. There really isn’t one. But if pressed I would say it[s someone who has a legitimate amount of weight to loose and has tried hard but failed in the past despite ‘knowing’ what their problems are. Perhaps the psych tricks will be what pushes this over the finish line. If you really want to try it re-read this post carefully and make you’re own decision.

If you decide too try it anyway I recommend ignoring the calorie and food recommendations and track calories in another app like my fitness pal. There you can also track your weight and measurements and set goal weights. While there should be more alerts sooner in that one if you set a too low goal wight, eat too few calories the app will at least let you know you’re int the danger zone. Same thing when you weigh in. Now also go ahead and calculate the calories you need each day for your healthy goal weight and aim for that every day. There are plenty of calculators available but you can give this one a try.

Have you tried Noom? What did you think of it? What is your favorite app for helping you to loose wight?

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