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HomeNutritionIs Noom really worth the effort? A dietitian's perspective

Is Noom really worth the effort? A dietitian’s perspective

On the 28th of December, I became a #Noomer and began a 14-day free trial. I was curious as I had seen ads everywhere with the simple message, “Stop Dieting.” You can get life-long results.

It lures you in – “There’s no reason diets work… Find out how long it will be to reach your goal weight …’

What is Noom?

It is described as an award-winning weight loss program.

This app combines psychology, technology, and human coaches to help users build sustainable habits and achieve their health and wellness goals.

Room was created by the founders who were unhappy with the American healthcare system’s focus on healthcare and not sick care. They created Noom to help people take control of their health.

Already I’m confused.

Is Noom a diet or not?

It justifies its non-diet status with the statement that no foods are prohibited. Mmmm, ok.

I give some details and stats about the program and say that I want to lose one stone. To see if it would indicate anything, I kept my goal and started weights within a healthy BMI range.

My BMR was calculated by the Harris-Benedict equation. They use my answers to calculate my activity level. Then, they cut 500 calories to create an energy shortage to achieve 0.5kg weight loss per week. The same principles were used in my weight management clinics for much of my NHS career.

They say that calories should not be lower than 1200 calories for women and 1400 for men. To ensure your body gets all the nutrients it needs, I have been given a calorie budget of 1200 calories.

It’s all good, though. This isn’t a diet. It’s going to help me make sustainable habits and take charge of my health.

They then tell me how to divide up my budget. They also introduce me to the idea of red, yellow, and green food. They don’t mention calories, although they do include them in every food log. But their main point is calorie density. For example, foods with higher water content will give me more food and fill me up.

  • Green foods have the lowest calories and/or the highest levels of healthy nutrients.
  • Yellow foods are more calorie-dense and/or have fewer healthy nutrients per portion than green foods.
  • Red foods have the highest calorie density and/or the lowest intake of healthy nutrients.

They quickly point out that “red” doesn’t necessarily mean “bad” and “green doesn’t necessarily mean ‘good”.

I am told to weigh myself and log my food every day. I can also track my activity.

It raises awareness. As you log your meals, a color code is displayed down the side. This allows you to see how much of your day is red, yellow, or green. You can also reflect on your choices and receive guidance on how to make them better.

This is a great way to make fiber-rich choices for #noomers. Although I am not allowed to judge foods based on their color codes, it is difficult to not. Hot chocolate is my favorite thing. It helps me meet my calcium needs since I don’t drink milk. It is red. It’s better to eat yellow, but it is still dangerous.

Other red foods that I should avoid are nuts, seeds, and full-fat dairy. Protein doesn’t seem as good, and it’s unclear what role it plays in creating satiety.

Does this teach the user to have a healthy relationship with food?

Should I be focusing on my behavior, weight loss, or both?

No can’t really decide on this. Noom acknowledges that there are many factors that can impact your weight. However, it assures me that I only need to do three things consistently to succeed.

  • Measuring myself
  • Logging food
  • Read the articles

According to my experience, weighing in every day helps me become more aware of myself and makes it easier to make healthy decisions. However, the SMART goals that they recommend focus on all aspects.

It provides data about the cardiovascular benefits of exercise for cardiovascular health. However, I was also reminded that I cannot cheat the system and that I can earn more money to put into my calorie budget if I do more exercise. They say they are ‘a bit strict with their calories’, and they will give me only half of what they burn to ensure I am in a deficit.

Wowzers! I believe I need to learn psychology to get through this.

Noom’s psychological aspects are what supposedly sets it apart from other weight loss programs. Let’s take a look at them.

Psychology of Weight Loss (according To Noom)

These behavioral science principles can be used to motivate and understand our triggers.

Trigger -> Thought-> Action -> Consequence.

I am reminded that my actions have many consequences. This brings me to the CBT part of the program.

With the knowledge that our thoughts are the ones that can change, I am encouraged to think about what triggers my behavior. Here are some examples of “evil thoughts”.

There are many types of thought distortions that I am familiar with, and which I share with clients. One example is all or nothing thinking, where we make broad statements that aren’t quite accurate. Delusional thinking is also described as “You convince yourself that something you don’t believe to justify a choice.”

They say that ‘This thin slice of cake doesn’t count and back it up with the statement, ‘But it does. Yes, it does.

After reading the article on thought distortions, I was able to see ‘all the tricks my sneaky little mind could make me believe’

We have then the “inner elephant”, who is a symbol of my emotional, impulsive, and irrational side. She is trying to derail my confidence so I shouldn’t be too trustful. Although it’s an interesting look into the psychology behind food choices, I don’t like the subtle undertones. It’s time to do a reality check.

The nuance in weight loss (and Noom).

Calculating energy needs

They love to emphasize that this is math and science. These equations assume that energy balance and regulation are within our control. They do not account for the metabolic effects of repeated diets on the body. Equations are only estimates and cannot be used to predict our future.

Research has shown that diet is the best predictor of weight loss over time. It’s funny how Noom doesn’t want to share this evidence.

Weight loss exercise using

Research shows that guilt can be used to motivate exercise. People who exercise for reasons other than calorie burning are more likely to stick with it. Physical activity is one of the four key behaviors that can help you live longer, regardless of your weight.

Hidden effects of food logging and daily weighing

While studies may indicate that food diaries and frequent weighing yield better results in weight loss, what are the hidden effects? Many weight loss studies do not consider psychological state. Many people who have done this are now in my clinics and carrying more weight, disordered eating, and food obsession. Is that weight loss sustained? Or was it another cycle? It is important to #noomer that they have a history of dieting. No questions were asked.

It has been proven that repeated dieting can increase food-related anxiety, body dissatisfaction, and weight loss over time. Eating intuitively, however, has the opposite effect. Norm says that scale anxiety decreases the more you do it. Based on my clinical experience, I find it difficult to accept this concept.

When everything is linked to weight, judgment tends to override innocent reflections. Even though we are encouraged to consider other measures of progress and to weigh in, the scale will eventually not reflect any effort or sacrifices made. As an example, I am not allowed to eat out very often and can choose soups made from the broth as my starter. No thanks.

When I am asked if doubts are present, I am assured that this is normal. I am also advised not to lose heart and to doubt my limits if you have doubts.

Noom sees me as my only limitation. If my body doesn’t respond, then it is me that needs to put in more effort and willpower. This increases the chance that we will self-report and assign blame.

It’s not clear that physiology responds to motivational quotes and big-picture thinking. Weight regulation is not a matter of mind over matter. It’s rooted within primal survival mechanisms. There are many reasons weight regain can occur.

Final thoughts

There are clear lifestyle habits that can be associated with better health. The room could provide the support and stimulus that is needed to help people make positive changes. The app is a great tool for tracking and learning about food and it can be used as a central point to explore all aspects of our eating habits.

For thousands of people who have been dieting for years, the idea that this isn’t a diet will tempt them. It has the potential to further damage their relationship with food and, consequently, their mental and physical health. These are also the reasons why I no longer offer portion plans or calorie deficits. We have lots of evidence that a nondiet approach can improve mental and physical health.

After my free trial ended, I was about ready to cancel. Then I received the offer of a group coach. The non-diet app says that this will help me get through all the ups and downs in my “weight loss” journey.

I look at the others in the group…

Ellen is 72. Ellen tells the group that she’s tired of yoyo-dieting. After trying many diets, this is the one that she believes is right for her.

Ellen, I miss you so much.

Join my free masterclass Friday 21 January 1-2 pm to learn more about the science behind diets and the best options for you moving forward. If you are unable to attend life, a recording will be made available. I would love to meet you and this was a very helpful read.

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