I had a journalist reach out to me for an article she’s writing about Noom. She asked me a few questions and I thought I would share my answers. 

If you do a google search on “Noom” you will see that they advertise themselves as Stop dieting. Get lifelong results.

Right off the bat, I have to call Bull Sh*t. 

NOOM IS A DIET. NOOM IS A DIET. NOOM IS A DIET. 

Okay, I’ll stop yelling. Here’s the first question.

1. Noom uses psychology to help clients build new habits. Is this type of approach beneficial to certain people in particular (for example, those who may have failed on other diets in the past)? 

Quick answer is NO. Let’s be clear on one thing. Noom is designed to help folks lose weight. 

Intentional weight loss happens when we eat less calories and or move more via exercise. They don’t want to call it a “diet” but the very definition of dieting is any conscious intentional control of calories to change (shrink ) down the size/shape of ones body. It is a diet by definition. Those who have “failed” other diets in the past, the psychological approach will not inherently change the fact that they are still on a diet whether it’s counting calories, macros, WW, Jenny Craig, Keto etc. the process is the same. Diet culture is a sneaky shape shifter so they will co-opt “lifestyle” changes with expert psychologists to change “habits” to keep the weight off for good this time. It’s clever and it fuels the 80 Billion dollar diet industry profits.

2. Are there any downsides to Noom? I’ve read where some people think the app causes disordered eating, do you think this is true? 

YES. This is a very real and harmful outcome of following the Noom DIET, and any diet for that matter. Remember the definition of dieting is to restrict oneself of food (and or move more via exercise) in order to lose body weight. The entire Noom app is centered around logging, controlling, and preplanning what you eat to achieve a calorie level far below your biological needs.

The negative effects of dieting are as follows:

Weight fluctuations: dieting often leads to weight fluctuations, also known as “weight cycling” which is linked to an increase in cardiovascular risk factors, such as increased blood pressure, heart rate, and circulating levels of glucose, lipids and insulin.

Binge eating: chronic dieting can lead to binge eating and loss of control around food.

Worsens body image: chronic dieting can negatively affect a person’s self-esteem, confidence and often exacerbates body image issues.

Nutrient deficiencies: dieting can lead to nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition.

Metabolic slowdown: chronic dieting causes the metabolism to slow down, making it more likely weight will increase over time.

Increased stress: dieting increases stress and anxiety, which is harmful for our nervous system long term.

Disordered eating: chronic dieting leads to disordered eating patterns and an unhealthy relationship with food/body. Dieting is a risk factor in the development of more serious eating disorders.

Furthermore, Noom reinforces the idea that a smaller body = better and/or happier/healthier. This is a harmful idea that also increases weight stigma for folks that are born into larger bodies and are living well and healthy in larger bodies. If you don’t think this is possible, please read this

Noom also uses an overly simplistic calorie calculation how much you need to eat and move daily. This model is harmful as it completely ignores set point, genetics, lifestyle and other more complex factors that determine energy needs and “goal” weights.

Noom brags that it uses psychology to help folks lose weight. This method is known as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be very helpful for some people, but it’s ineffective and harmful when applied to weight loss.

When Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is applied for weight loss, this requires that you organize all of your thoughts and feelings around the “rewards” of eating a 1,200 calorie diet. When you do this, you lose your sense of autonomy. Deprivation kicks in and the pendulum will inevitably swing from over-restrictive to over-permissive (overeating). Noom is essentially using psychology to force the body into semi-starvation via calorie restriction. We just can’t trick our bodies for too long with long term calorie deprivation. It will backfire. 

3. Do you think Noom is successful in helping people change their eating behaviors on a permanent basis?

I would like to say yes however, to date no research exists (please prove me wrong) that supports the majority of folks that follow Noom will be successful at keeping their weight loss. I am concerned not with short term success but LONG term success. Long term is typically after five years or more. Let’s hope the folks at Noom are indeed doing the right and ethical thing by tracking long term data. I seriously doubt it.

If we just look at lifestyle behaviors independent of weight for outcomes, Noom may indeed be helping folks choose to eat and move in more “healthy” ways. We can look at lifestyle behaviors which are health promoting and they include: increasing intake of  fruits/veggies, increasing intake of high fiber foods, drinking more water, getting more sleep, reducing stress levels, increasing daily steps and exercise, allowing for relaxation, pleasure, etc. These are all behaviors that can improve health without having to focus on weight. Why doesn’t Noom just focus on healthy behaviors and not weight? Because there isn’t as much money to be made. It’s all about short term profit for these companies.

4. Doesn’t weight loss help some people become “healthier”? What about those folks that need to lose weight?

Yes, it is true that some folks will improve some health parameters if they lose some weight. There is research to support this. And, it is also short term. Some folks may be able to decrease their blood pressure medication, for example if they lose some weight. But again, can these behaviors changes via dieting be sustained long term. The overwhelming research is that most folks re-gain the weight they lost from dieting long term. 

Weight loss is not as simple as deciding what arbitrary weight you want to be based on an outdated BMI system. There are genetics and other factors involved including your past history with weight loss which may prevent or at least cause you or your body to be resistant to the very methods that Noom endorses.

It would be better if Noom would say, at most we can offer 5% -10% weight loss sustainably, if that is what your body genetically and biologically wants, and you will need to commit to weighing and tracking forever in order to keep it there.

There is research to support this. The few that can lose weight and keep it off are using methods like this for a lifetime.

5. What are some aspects of Noom that you really like as a dietitian? 

Noom has co-opted anti-diet language and body positive movements to make their program appear to be more sustainable but at its core, it’s still a diet. On their website they say, There are no good and bad foods, just green, yellow and red based on calorie content. This type of categorization of foods just creates external judgements and confusion about what to eat which fuels rigid thoughts and food policing. It also undermines our ability to trust our bodies (intuitive eating) whereby we are more likely to react and break the rules with our eating. Dieting causes folks to “disinhibit” also known as overeating and for some binge eating. When someone is “on” their diet, they are doing well. When some one is “cheating” and “off” the diet, they tend to say, “F it” and over-consume the “red” foods. It becomes a vicious cycle. Dieting is such a set up for thinking about foods in rigid and dichotomous ways. It’s hard to not think of a red food as a “bad” food, right? We want to be trusted with food so much that we reclaim our autonomy back from dieting by breaking the very rules we are supposed to follow. 

Lastly, If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, walks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. NOOM IS A DUCK. I MEAN A DIET. QUACK QUACK. Without a critical analysis of diet culture, it’s easy to see why so many people buy into this.

Noom ‘works’ and the company is likely very profitable because they also spend loads of money on advertising. These intrusive ads are everywhere. I get it. They are in the business of weight loss. It’s an 80 Billion dollar industry that preys on folks insecurities and hopes of a ‘new lease on life’ when you can finally reach your weight loss goals. 

You might see some before and after phots and compelling testimonials or “success” stories with Noom, but I encourage you to look at the longer and bigger picture. 

Can you follow this diet for the long term? Forever? 

Do you find yourself starting and then stopping? Do you cycle between being “good” and tracking and then switching to going off and eating with reckless abandon? 

If so, this may be a sign that Noom is harming you and it is time to find a more sustainable approach. 

Most of my clients are recovering from chronic dieting. They have tried every diet under the sun! One of my clients, let’s call her Sally, was finally ready to learn about Body Trust and Intuitive Eating but only after she had tired all the diets and then failed at all the diets.

She had “success” following Noom for a while. After about a year or so, she lost 25 pounds. She felt  proud until one day she went to a party with so many tasty appetizers that she began to feel resentful of having to limit her calories. She also felt like she had to burn off the extra calories at the gym to make up for things.  The problem with feeling proud about the weight loss, is that it’s often not enough to keep the motivation going. Pride is replaced with stronger feelings of resentment and diet fatigue. Motivation wanes at this point, coupled with frustration. This is when folks decide to take the weekend off counting or tracking and then never get back on track. The eating increases, the weight comes back. Going to the gym feels punishing and might even be avoided altogether (even if you genuinely want to move). 

She blamed herself for regaining the weight. Thought she needed more “willpower” and “control.” Or maybe a new diet. A better one. 

What she didn’t understand was that the diet was failing her. Restrictive diets just don’t work long term for most of us! 

Unless you can tolerate the constant guilt and deprivation my client feel — diets don’t work. This includes Noom.

My mission (and I invite you to join me) is to live a life free from having to follow a rigid diet plan. Free from having to control ever morsel you put in your mouth. Free from the societal notions that your body isn’t good enough. 

If you are at the end of your dieting rope and ready for a new way, consider letting go of dieting. Consider joining the Body Trust and Intuitive Eating movement.

What if you could get to a place and really feel FOOD FREEDOM? 
Imagine living your life without calorie limits, “good” and “bad” foods and daily weigh-ins…doesn’t that sound nice?

I can help you to become the intuitive eater you were born to be. You were actually born an intuitive eater, I will just help you find your way back home. 

Book a call with me to talk about how my 4 month Body Trust and Intuitive Eating Program will transform your life. Book a free call with me here

Much love, light and really good stinky French Cheese

Karen Louise

Your Anti-diet Nutrition Therapist and Intuitive Eating Dietitian since 2005

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Karen Louise Scheuner, MA, RDN

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