An Actual HONEST Review of NOOM
I’m going to start this off with a lot of objective information about the app itself, how it works, and cost breakdowns. I will talk about my personal experience with it at the end, so if you’re here for just that, go ahead and start scrolling past the first few paragraphs.
Every couple of years, a new and excited weight loss program is introduced to us. This new program always talks about how it’s better than all the other programs and how this will be the LAST one you will need. When Noom hit the market, it definitely shook things up since it truly is different from other weight loss programs.
Data & Comparison
Noom was founded in 2008 by 2 software engineers (you read that correctly). It touts itself as a health coaching app that will help target behaviors to help you lose weight. As of right now, Noom has more than 50 million users and is still growing. The company is currently worth more than $200 million and is still growing, and it is projected to keep growing according to Forbes.
I watched this video of a Registered Dietician discussing the app and its founders. She used to work in start up tech, and she has A LOT of good information about red flags all over the place with the direction this company is likely going. Her prediction (along with many others) is that they are going to sell the company very soon, leave the current users in the dust, and then move on to do another start up tech app that’s similar to Noom but focused on some other area of human lives.
What are the success rates?
According to HealthLine, “While research on Noom’s effectiveness is limited, one study in nearly 36,000 Noom users found that 78% experienced weight loss while using the app for an average of 9 months, with 23% experiencing more than a 10% loss, compared with their starting weight ( 11 ).”
That sounds pretty good right? Let’s compare that to other weight loss programs:
- WW International (formerly known as Weight Watchers): “Research from the Medical University of South Carolina’s Weight Management Center suggests that it works: In a 6-month clinical trial of myWW, participants lost 8% of their weight on average and had less hunger. More telling, 88% said that myWW was an easier way to lose weight than when they’ve tried to go it alone. ” – webMD, 2019
- Jenny Craig: “The study found that 92 percent of its participants stuck with the Jenny Craig program during the two-year study period and the dieters weighed an average of 8 percent less than when they began the program. ” -ABCNews articple posted in 2011…could not find more recent data.
- Nutrisystem: “A review of 39 studies found that participants who followed the Nutrisystem program achieved at least 3.8% greater weight loss after 3 months than those who completed nutrition counseling only ( 13 ).” -HealthLine, 2020
Based off of that data I could find, it seems like WW is the closest one in success rate, and it could be argued that it has a higher success rate, but this article is not about WW; it’s about Noom.
You have to be VERY careful when interpreting the language these companies use when talking about their success rates and referencing studies.
Of course, it SOUNDS great that 78% of users experienced weight loss right? That means it MUST work right? They can’t lie about that, right? Well. TECHNICALLY, it is true that 78% of users lost weight. But what they fail to mention is: how much? Weight loss can be true for 1lb lost or 60lbs lost. It also does not specify if users CONTINUED to lose weight, or if they just lost 1lb in the first week and kept it off while using the app for 9 months. It also says “while using the app,” which is another language choice alert. It makes me ask the question: so what happens after they leave the program? Did Noom change their lives enough that they keep the weight off and live healthy fulfilled lives without disordered eating habits?
The study they are referencing was also funded by Noom, which automatically raises my eyebrows a bit. It isn’t that you can’t trust study outcomes if a company funds it themselves, but you have to wonder about it. “Funding bias” is a real thing. While they can’t technically lie in their results, they can cherry pick the results and word it to where it is technically true, but it’s VERY misleading.
When it comes to interpreting studies, there are many layers to determining if the study is a good one. It’s very easy to just type into Google Scholar a subject and find a study that SEEMS good. There is a list of criteria that must be met in order for a study to pass “the test.” One of them is to look at who funded it. Generally speaking, if the funder has something to gain from a positive outcome of the study (such as Noom funding its own study so it can say it has a 78% success rate for weight loss), there is a higher likelihood that the outcome will, in fact, be positive.
Here are the studies you can check out for yourself:
Let’s look at cost now.
Noom has several different plans, and like most things, if you pay for more months up front, you will get a “discounted” rate. On average, Noom users pay $59 per month.
Compare that to other programs:
- WW: Again, depending on how far in advance you pay, but most users pay $7-$15 per week, or $28-$45 per month.
- Jenny Craig: is absurdly expensive. Here are the numbers: you first have a sign up fee. I could not find exactly how much it is aside from one source saying that it’s “usually under $100.” After that, there is a monthly membership fee of $20. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE! On Jenny Craig, you pay for their food for their program. This costs on average $150 PER WEEK. So each month, you are paying close to $700 for this program.
- Nutrisystem: $333 per month plus $20 shipping for each box of food. I’m not clear on how the food shipment works, so let’s assume you get a box every couple of weeks which puts this at nearly $400 per month.
Noom does provide your food for you, and as of right now, does not have any branded products you can buy in grocery stores like WW. Based off of the information I could find, Noom is comparable in cost to WW, though a little more expensive per month.
How Noom Works
Like I mentioned before, Noom is designed to be a “health coaching” app. After taking an extensive questionnaire and picking your plan (more on that in a moment), you are assigned a calorie goal and a Noom guide. The guide is not the same thing as the 1 on 1 coach this app advertises. The guide is more of a general customer service type entity. They can answer generic questions about using the app, the program, payments, etc. They do not give personalized responses. The app will ask you how many minutes per day you want to dedicate to learning. You have options ranging from 5 minutes to 15 minutes. It will then assign you daily tasks that are essentially mini lessons in nutrition, behavior, and weight loss. Your goal will be to log in each day, complete the assigned lessons, log your meals, and “finish the day” after your last food log.
What makes Noom unique is its usage of the “traffic light” system for foods. The goal is to eat MOSTLY green foods, which are foods that are less calorie dense such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, etc. It wants you to eat some yellow foods such as avocado, dairy, protein, and then minimal red foods such as processed meats, nut butters, fast food, candy, etc. Depending on how many calories you are assigned will determine exactly how much it will recommend you eat from each “light.” Your calories are calculated based off of your BMR and then how quickly you want to lose weight (slow, average, or fast). I actually asked my guide how they determined calories for weight loss, and I’ll share that soon.
The idea is that each week, you complete a number of courses and do a quiz in order to “graduate” to the next level of lessons.
In the questionnaire, they say that they use CBT (or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) to help people who participate in the program.
All of this sounds not so bad, right? Well. In some ways, it isn’t so bad, but in many other ways, it’s really not the best way to tackle your unhealthy relationship with food.
2 3 Week Trial
After 2 weeks, I went to cancel my subscription, and it gave me the option of extending it by another week, so I did. I used Noom for about 3 weeks.
I want to be transparent that I went into this with a heavy bias AGAINST the program. I have seen many nutrition professionals criticize it, and I was (and still am) VERY put off by some of the advertising.
For example: One of the ads I saw on YouTube presented a woman who said that she was very active and exercised all the time. She said, “All my friends said, ‘How can you be so active and still be so big?'” Enter Noom to save the day. My brain could not wrap itself around all the red flags in that advertisement. If you relate to that person, please find better friends, and do not do Noom because someone bodyshamed you. That is the WORST possible thing you can do. Kick those “friends” to the curb, please, I beg you. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOUR BODY.
All of that being said, I tried to be as fair and objective as humanly possible while using the app and writing up this article.
The questionnaire process was a bit frustrating for me. It was very long, which isn’t a huge issue in itself except that the app for this process was VERY buggy. It crashed several times in the middle of the process. It did save some of my answers up to a point, but having to redo the majority of it was not great. I even got to the point of putting in my payment information, and then it crashed again. This is not an issue with the program itself, but it is something they need to address since the program is all on the app. Luckily, I was able to get on the computer and complete the process there. The questions were slightly different on the website, but the process was much smoother.
After you answer all the questions, they tell you they have selected the most perfect plan for you with your goals in mind. You get excited to see this magical plan. What will it look like? How many calories can I eat? How does it work?
Well. You have to pay to find out. Yes, after the long tedious process where they get into your head and make you excited to join the program, they then have you select your plan. Because of the pandemic, they have low price options for the 2 week trial, but normally you would have to pay a decent amount just for the trial. I ended up only paying around $1.00USD. Note: I used PayPal to check out so I could easily dispute any other charges; I wondered what the ease of canceling would look like and wanted to make sure I would not be charged. After the 2 week trial, you get charged for a 7 month program that is roughly $170.00. I’m still not entirely clear on how or if you can select other options.
Once you put in your payment information, you are then prompted to “upgrade” and “commit” to a longer amount of time all before you’ve even seen the plan you’re about to start. I found that a red flag in itself, but then the screens for these were confusing on how to decline the option. I had to reread the options several times to make sure I would not accidentally enroll in something that cost over $170.00USD.
Red flags during this process:
- Lengthy questionnaire that gets you hyped for the program, but then you never actually see the program before having to pay money.
- The 2 week trial costs money. In my opinion, an app like this should be free. Or at least let you have access to your plan for a couple of days so you can decide if it’s a system that will work for you. Note: I have read in other places that the 2 week trial is free, but I did not see that as an option. If it is free, then that’s great, but either way, they require your credit card/PayPal info up front which I never agree with.
- On one of the screens, they talk about how they use CBT (mentioned above). I take issue with this because you do not have access to a licensed therapist. You get access to a 1 on 1 coach (more on that in a moment), but that coach is not in any way licensed.
- The confusing checkout screen where they try to rope you into signing up for a longer program and make it to where you could easily accidentally enroll in an upgrade you don’t want yet. And again, all without even seeing the program you’re about to start.
Green flags during this process:
Unfortunately, none. The whole process felt extremely manipulative and like one of those infomercials where they say “Call now and we’ll add in a second product for FREE!” One could argue that they’re so confident in their program that they know it will work for you, so you should just TRUST them and enroll. Personally, I don’t think that’s how it should work. As a personal trainer and nutrition coach myself, I ALWAYS give a free consultation with a program, and I make sure I’m clear in the difficulties each client will face. There are no hidden fees, no confusing check out processes, and no pay wall after completing a questionnaire where you don’t get to see what you’re signing up for before you pay. That’s not how I do things, and that’s not how I think things should be done when it comes to coaching.
After the hour long process of trying to get the app to stop crashing during the questionnaire and payment screen, I was finally in. I could finally see this amazing plan they had for me.
I was curious what my calorie recommendation was going to be. Considering I was not asked about my current activity level, I wasn’t sure what it was going to choose for me. I selected to go at a moderate pace for weight loss rather than fast or slow.
It had my recommended calories for weight loss at 1200 calories.
If you have followed me on Instagram or know me in person, you know that a good way to make me scream is to say that you should eat 1200 calories as an adult. Huge red flag.
I decided to ask my guide about this, and this is what she had to say:
I was not exactly sure what to make of that. The equation determines your BMR, which is how many calories you burn just sitting staring at a wall. It does not factor in activity. My BMR is around 1800kcal. To MAINTAIN (i.e., no weight loss or weight gain) my current weight with my activity level and body fat %, I would have to eat around 3200kcal per day. While yes, it is technically true that I would lose weight eating 1200 calories per day, it would be a very costly endeavor for my health. Her suggestion to eat 1600kcal instead for a little while is also very unfounded. You can’t possibly make that recommendation to someone without more information. 1600kcal is still not enough for a lot of adults. And it is especially not enough for me. For a program that prides itself on being individualized, it certainly did not take any time to really assess my personal needs.
I went into my settings and changed my weekly weight loss goals. I dropped it to 0.5lbs per week loss instead of 2lbs, just to see what would happen. It bumped me up to 2000kcal. Better but still likely not enough to fuel how hard I train with powerlifting on a daily basis (I try to eat AT LEAST 2500kcal DAILY though most days I’m not really tracking).
I decided to request a 1 on 1 coach. The first thing I asked her? About my calories. Here was her response:
I’ll get into the coach here in a moment, but let’s look at the lessons first.
Many of the lessons are actually based on good science and psychology. They’re things I’ve actually gone over in my coaching programs. My issue with these lessons is that they aren’t realistic things you can implement on your own in lessons that are 1 minute at most. I firmly believe that in order to make lasting and meaningful changes in your life, you need someone there to help guide you. I suppose that’s the purpose of the coach in the app, but I’ll get to that in a second.
While some of the lessons with psychology are great, it became increasingly clear to me that the nutrition science was simply not there. At all. In fact, some of the things it suggested were things that essentially encouraged disordered eating.
For example: one of the lessons was on calorie density. Basically, there are less calories in grapes for a larger volume than in raisins which are a smaller volume. Which is TRUE; however, it suggested that when you’re hungry, you fill up on grapes or lettuce to get less calories in but to satiate the hunger. If you’re not seeing an issue with this, let me explain:
If you’re hungry, that means you need more food. And since Noom puts the majority of its user on a 1200kcal diet, it makes sense that you would be hungry and NEED MORE FOOD. Stuffing yourself full with 10kcal worth of lettuce is not the answer. For one, this is going to empty from your stomach fairly quickly, and you will just end up being hungry again within a couple of hours. If you’re hungry, you need to eat something more substantial, perhaps even a full meal that includes protein, carbohydrates, and fats. There were very few lessons on nutrition itself, but the lessons it did have that I was able to take, provided TERRIBLE advice that could push someone into disordered eating habits. I found myself mildly triggered simply because of my own history, so I can imagine it would not be healthy for others.
Though I wanted to give this app a real shot and use it as if I were serious about the program, I found myself zoning out doing the lessons. Whether this is a reflection on myself or the design of the program (or both), I could see this happening to others too. I passed the quizzes simply because I have a background in some of this stuff, but I find it hard to believe that most users are doing these lessons, processing them, and then implementing the advice into their daily lives regularly. We have such short attention spans as a society that I don’t know how much we can really absorb in such short lessons and in a “scroll mindlessly” culture.
Here is another red flag: one of the lessons talked about how you should weigh yourself every day. While I understand the philosophy behind this, it’s not a good idea in practice. I tried it at first and found myself panicking over the scale each day even though it’s supposed to do the opposite. While yes, it may show you that your weight fluctuates every day, the idea that you can keep track of trends in your weight increasing is problematic, and I don’t agree with the practice.
I do not agree with their traffic light system for food. Though they say that it’s just a “guideline,” it automatically puts your mindset into “good and bad” for certain foods when many of the red foods shouldn’t even be in the red category to begin with. They base these colors based off of calorie density and that’s it. It SHOULD base EVERYTHING off of nutrient density. There’s a big difference, and even if you are tracking calories for weight loss, you need to pay attention to nutrients. Which the app doesn’t even track at all. The only way to see nutrients is to see it on individual items you are logging at the time of logging, but there is no way to see overall. This is another red flag for how I know there was no one with any iota of nutrition knowledge working on this app’s creation and implementation.
For example, it puts nut butters into the “red” food category, which for anyone with a history of disordered eating (I’d venture to say that most people using the app probably have had or currently have some degree of disordered eating) this would make you think you need to avoid nut butters at all costs because they are “bad.” Nut butters are actually an excellent source of fats and protein. While yes, they are calorically dense, they are not something to be avoided unless you just don’t like them or have allergies.
While yes, the “green” foods we SHOULD be eating a lot of when possible, it’s just problematic to frame it this way.
Simple color psychology can tell you that putting foods into “red” vs “green” categories will automatically make you think bad vs good. Red is a color used to signify danger or to stop. Green is a color to signify earth, purity (from earth), go. I strongly disagree with using this traffic light system as a means of logging food. It’s just perpetuating a cycle and enforcing a continued unhealthy relationship with food.
Additionally, they don’t have any way to track nutrient intake. They center it around purely calorie intake and the traffic light system. While yes, in the most simplistic way possible, calorie management is the way to lose weight, there is a lot more to it than just that. I always recommend my clients (who are comfortable tracking) try to consider nutrients as well such as protein intake, fiber intake, and vitamin/mineral intake. The way that their food log is designed just made it even more obvious to me that they really gave no thought to the nutrition side of things.
I also found the food log to be terribly buggy and difficult to log foods. Their database is ok, though it really needs to be expanded. What should have been a very quick logging experience became cumbersome and irritating.
The biggest selling point for this app is the 1 on 1 coach. Sure all the other stuff is great to do on your own, but wouldn’t it be great to have a person guiding you? I had the app for a total of 18 days. My coach was not great. This is not a reflection on her as a person, but on the set up of the app and program.
Here’s the thing. These coaches are guiding points for you, which is fine, but with thousands (millions?) of people using the app, how can a coach give you personalized attention and advice? They can’t. I don’t know how many coaches Noom has on staff, but it isn’t in the thousands.
My coach, Amber, gave very canned responses. She did not seem to read my questions thoroughly. Usually, I would get a reply once a day but there was a time when it took almost 2 days. And I know I am probably only 1 of 100+ people she has to reply to in a day. I also firmly believe at least 1 of the responses was an automatic response, not Amber herself. There are rumors that the coaches are bots, but after my own experience as well as what I’ve found online, the coaches don’t seem to be bots; they just only have so much time in the day and you are not their official client.
Here is a sample of our conversations:
I am not clear on the training process the coaches have to go through. Are they certified health coaches with a legitimate organization such as ACE, ISSA, etc? Do they have any nutrition training?
I don’t think the coach is beneficial. They don’t know anything about you or your lifestyle except perhaps the questionnaire you filled out prior to signing up. They don’t know anything about your lifestyle, your struggles, your health, etc. How can you depend on someone who’s so far detached from you to help guide you through what is likely a difficult process? I understand that this program is more affordable than hiring a true 1 on 1 nutrition coach or trainer, but there’s a reason why the cost of that is what it is; you get a personalized guidance and compassion.
The Cancelation Process
I did not have any issues with canceling my membership. It was easy to find in the app, and they do try to rope you back in in the process, but overall, I had no issues at all. I did not get charged once my trial was up. HOWEVER, the Better Business Bureau has over 1200 complaints for issues with cancelation. Those complaints say that they were still charged even after canceling their membership and that they had a really difficult time getting a refund. The customer service is apparently severely lacking. Be wary of this.
Google “Noom review,” and you’ll bring up thousands of glowing recommendations. Be very wary of these. Many of them are paid sponsorships or have received some kind of compensation. There are A LOT of very generic, cookie cutter positive reviews on places like TrustPilot and the Google Play store. I would not put it past Noom to compensate people in exchange for positive reviews. It’s not uncommon for companies like this to do that.
When you sign up for the full program, you apparently will have access to a support group chat where you and your peers can support each other. Honestly, this sounds like a great idea. Peer support is one of the number one factors for success in reaching our goals. It’s just too bad it doesn’t make a difference with Noom.
I do not recommend this program by any stretch of the imagination. From its clear lack of nutrition education, to its generic psychology, to its recommendation to use disordered eating habits – it’s a mess. What people see when they use a program like this is “results” – meaning they see weight loss on the scale. But what they are lacking is education, stability, and long-term habits. This app can’t teach you that. I believe this app is a money grab and is causing more harm than good. You are better off putting your money elsewhere or following coaches who use their social media platforms to educate against BS like this.
Here is a list:
When I quit Noom, I got a survey asking for my opinion. Here is what I said:
I also posted a review on Google Play:
Now, I’m not sure if companies have an option to hide or suppress negative reviews on the Google Play store, but my review keeps disappearing and is hard to find. This could just be a glitch on my end, but it’s suspicious that it’s happening with Noom when I’ve never had an issue with other app reviews.