Mind The App: Psychology-Powered Wellness Platform Noom Is Helping People Shed Pandemic Pounds
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Whether you’re battling the “Freshman 15 (or #Quarantine 15), Covid-19, baby weight, a dad bod, or simply looking for some guidance on eating better, living healthier, or staying motivated, Noom could be the program for that.
What Is Noom?
Introduced in 2008 by founders Artem Petakov and Saeju Jeong and refined in 2016 into the program you probably vaguely remember seeing advertised on Instagram, Noom is a psychologically-rooted digital health and wellness program that has been downloaded 50 million times in more than 100 countries. Available for Apple and Android phones, it has since been ranked the number one health and wellness program out of 800 by the University of Sydney Medical Center and dubbed, the “Weight Watchers for Millennials.”
The company doesn’t love the comparison. Not because it has beef with WW, but because they believe “there isn’t anything else quite like Noom,” according to its chief psychology officer Andreas Michaelides. (Important to note that both apps have a personal coaching component.)
Michaelides says the basic premise is pretty straightforward: Noom, he says, “helps people develop positive habits and attitudes and a healthier relationship with food for positive health outcomes. Noom acts like a guide, helping people make healthier choices,” he tells Rolling Stone. “We see weight management as a benefit of a healthy, active lifestyle. With 86 percent of adults predicted to be overweight or obese in the U.S. by 2030, it was a great place to start [in order] to help as many people as possible.”
But weight loss isn’t the only facet. Michaelides explains, “We focus on food, fitness, sleep, and stress management. If any one of these things is lacking, the whole system suffers. It’s like trying to drive your car with a wheel missing. It’s essential to think about preventative care,” he stresses, “[which is] often an afterthought in other programs and our health system. Increasingly, we’re seeing goals tied to avoiding negative health consequences, which we hypothesize [is] linked to the risks of being overweight in the pandemic.”
The platform’s constantly-evolving curriculum is based on current topical peer-reviewed research and principles developed by psychologists, nutritionists, and other behavioral health specialists that crib from therapeutic modalities including cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapy, acceptance commitment therapy, and mindfulness-based stress reduction. It generally avoids restrictions like fasting, banning of certain food groups, or hardcore calorie counting. Instead, it categorizes items into stoplight colors based on caloric density — nudging users to eat lots from the green column, while eating red foods in moderation.
How Much Does Noom Cost and What Do You Get?
Right now, Noom is letting you try out the program for just $0.50 for a full week, before committing to pay as little as $59 a month (on a monthly auto-recurring plan). The most popular package is $129 for four months.
Membership gives you access to tools to log meals, exercise, daily weight, blood pressure, and steps, plus a recipe database, a one-on-one coach, a virtual support group, and daily articles and activities about nutrition, stress relief, triggers, overcoming bad habits, scale anxiety, and more. (Be warned, because while the tips and tricks are all grounded in science, the overall platform voice is hashtag heavy, full of acronyms, and appreciates corny jokes and pop culture references. Personally, we think it’s refreshing to have some fun with it and not just read regurgitated facts and theories.)
You can also choose to add on a custom meal or workout plan, and there’s also a diabetes prevention plan with more specialized perks and tactics.
See full Noom plans and membership options here
How Does Noom Work?
The first step is a questionnaire that starts with basics (height, weight, age). It also inquires about past experiences with dieting, fitness, and nutrition before asking more heady questions about feelings, obstacles, and goals. Using that information, a timeline is set and you’re matched to the aforementioned group and coach who will email motivational support and emojis. (Again, be warned. For some, this will feel hokey at best and like a nuisance at worst. For others, this is the kind of thumbs-up validation they crave and need to succeed.)
Articles aimed at your goals and improving overall nutrition, fitness, and wellness show up daily and the ball is in your court to log your stats. Noom swears you only really need 10 minutes a day in the app to achieve results.
See full Noom plans and membership options here
Does Noom Work?
Like every diet/exercise regimen—or any endeavor you set out on in life really—the more you put into it, the more you’ll likely get out of it. The onus is on the user to put in the time, absorb the lessons, and make the changes.
“Our philosophy is that the ability to change lies in the individual,” Michaelides says. “Noom provides the tools to enable this, and helps remove internal and external barriers that impede success.”
Noom trots out its most successful clients—the one who reversed their pre-diabetes diagnosis, the one with the old jeans that fit again, the one who went from needing knee replacement to running a marathon, or the one that lost more than a 100 pounds then became a Noom coach. (Is it just us or do they sound like the best lost Friends episodes?)
The general company line: in four weeks, the typical user can expect to drop one to two pounds a week. “If you’re looking for a quick fix or something extreme, Noom isn’t the place for you,” Michaelides says. “Though extreme diets might result in faster weight loss, that weight is often gained back in the long term. While the results aren’t overnight [with Noom], they’re much more likely to stick.”
In fact, a 2016 Nature Research study with 35,921 participants showed that 78 percent of users maintained the weight loss over nine months. Michaelides says 70 percent are keeping it off at the year mark.
More importantly, given Noom’s focus on creating overall lifestyle changes, Michaelides is happy to report that users commonly experience lasting side effects that include a better grasp of nutrition. What they learn: “new sustainable healthy habits, more frequently making meals at home instead of eating out, incorporating more physical activity into daily routines, and embracing mindfulness techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing and intention setting.”
Noom isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach and perhaps that’s why it’s so successful. By tailoring a program based on your personal goals and habits, the company is able to tune into what works for you and find the tools that best match your lifestyle.
Find out more about the program at Noom.com.
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