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The Noom plan wants to help you lose weight without dieting — does it work?

The NOOM diet offers a strong focus on the mental aspect of weight loss, urging users to review articles about barriers and identifying triggers.
Young woman in city apartment eating muesli breakfast whilst reading laptop
Having a coach who can see your progress and cheer you along (as you do on the NOOM program) can increase long term sustainability.Tom Dunkley / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

There are countless diets being marketed to Americans today, from WW to the ketogenic diet, to the MIND diet. It seems like a new weight-loss plan is advertised every week. The latest program has a strangely catchy name: NOOM.

NOOM draws you in with a free “30-second” online evaluation that assesses your ideal and current weight, height, gender and age. As a registered dietitian, I was curious to see what it was about, so I went through the process of signing up.

How does the NOOM diet work?

After providing your information, the website poses a series of questions and answers that best describe your personality, current diet, typical meals, as well as eating patterns and any additional issues like back problems, chronic conditions, medications and environment.

You can expect questions like: How busy are you on an average day? How do you usually prepare your meals? What time of the day do you feel hungry the most?

All questions have a series of options for you to choose from. After your assessment you are asked to provide an email. After you submit the email, you are provided two pieces of information: the month in which you can expect to hit your goal weight, and how much it will cost you to get there with the service. I liked that the time it determined I would meet my goal was based on my gender, age and activity level. As a woman in her mid 40’s, I didn’t want to be treated the same as a woman in her 20’s.

I wanted to lose about 25 pounds and the price after the free trial was $74.25 for two months. I chose “fast” as my desired weight-loss speed. They determined I could lose my desired weight by May with my original questions and assessment all being completed around January 17. I also was offered to upgrade to a custom workout plan for $39, a custom meal plan for $59 or a weight-loss DNA test for $39.

If you continue, more questions appear that assess your individual goals, lifestyle, food allergies and meal planning. NOOM identifies this as your “big picture” and will reference it in the app. The big picture is defined as:

  • Super goals: These are the big ones you want to achieve by the end of the program.
  • Your ultimate why: This looks at motivating factors (and walks you through the future, how your life will be different.)

NOOM programs

There are several program options to choose from. I focused on their "Healthy Weight" program. This plan was 16 weeks (with post-program activity) and allowed me to log weight, steps and food (with budgeted amounts provided for all of them). When it came to diet, it used a stoplight system with "green" being foods you can have a lot of and "red" being foods you should limit. I followed it for about a week and it allowed me access to virtual groups, articles, challenges, special weekend content and the app even had a built-in pedometer to track steps.

I had my own coach and it was easy to connect with her by clicking on the chat symbol in the upper right-hand corner of the app. My coach was available Monday through Friday, and all the communication was through the in-app chat.

Amber, my coach, told me that her goal on my journey was to work together to set weekly goals and an action plan. She also told me she would check in on me on a weekly basis to keep me accountable. She asked me to finish my “YBP” so that she could know more about me and my goals and expressed how important this piece was. When I chatted with her, she got back to me within 24 hours. Amber was assigned to me within 12 hours of signing up.

What makes NOOM different?

It’s clear from the start that the program has a strong focus on the mental aspect of weight loss, often nudging you to review articles discussing getting over barriers and identifying triggers and sabotages. A 2020 study in the journal Obesity found that yes, weight loss is about better nutrition and more physical activity but perhaps even more so, it’s about self monitoring and coping strategies that come with resisting temptation. All of which are highlighted in the NOOM program.

One of the reasons effective and lasting weight loss is so hard is because you ultimately can’t succeed by JUST changing the food you eat. You have to change your whole outlook — you have to change your head. I often have patients tell me they lost weight, but found that once they got back into their goal jeans they were exactly the same person with the same issues and ultimately went back to those issues. Long term sustained weight loss is key to the NOOM program. A 2020 study found that having a coach (as I had) who can see your progress and cheer you along can increase long term sustainability.

You have to identify your barriers, your true motivating factors and accept things you won’t be able to change (but to work towards working around them). I think a one-on-one coach, like a registered dietitian or doctor, is always the best approach, but this app attempted to mimic that in an online version and did a good job (for the right person).