A Dietitian's Review Of Noom

More than 45 million people are using Noom—a psychology-based health app for weight loss. But before you follow the crowds, let’s look at whether this app is the answer we’ve all been waiting for or just the current trend. 

As a Registered Dietitian, I’ll be reviewing Noom from a science-backed lens, looking at the strategies they use to stimulate weight loss. 

What Exactly is Noom?

Noom is a mobile app that guides people through a curriculum for weight loss. On the app, you can read articles, take quizzes, log your food and water intake, and track your step count and weight. 

Noom isn’t new. It actually debuted in 2008 as a simple fitness and calorie tracker. In 2016, the app added a psychology and behavioral component, user support groups, and personal coaches. 

Their psychological approach aims to get to the root of weight loss struggles. Their app guides users through short articles and quizzes to help them examine eating behaviors, manage emotions related to food, practice accountability, and make lifestyle changes to help with weight loss. 


How Noom Works

  • Complete 10 Mini-Courses

Noom guides its users through 10 mini-courses over 16 weeks. These mini-courses require you to read several short articles a day that cover topics like food triggers, grocery store tips, and portion control. 

  • Get Connected

A few days into the program, a goal coach will begin reaching out twice a week for check-ins and motivational messages. Then you’ll be assigned a group coach and a peer group where you can chat with other Noomers. 

  • Cut Calories

Based on your info and goals, Noom will give you a daily calorie budget. You’ll learn how to tell the difference between foods with a low caloric density and a high caloric density using a simple color-coded system. Foods in the “green” category have low caloric density. Foods in the “yellow” category have mid-level caloric density. Foods in the “orange” category have the highest caloric density. 

  • Read, Log Meals, and Step on the Scale

Noom asks users to commit to working through their mini-courses, logging their food, and weighing themselves every day. After completing these three daily tasks, Noom gives one “Noomcoin” as a reward. You can’t buy anything with Noomcoins, but the app estimates that “Noomers lose one pound for every five Noomcoins they earn.”


Is Noom the Answer? A Dietitian’s Review 

Noom’s heavy focus on psychology and behavior could be helpful to people who are looking for answers to questions like, What triggers me to eat food when I’m not hungry? Its educational and coaching features could also help people who perform best with external motivation.  

Noom gets a number of things right! We agree on a few important points: 

  • No food is “bad” food: Noom doesn’t entirely eliminate any foods or food groups. They explain, “We want you to eat healthy for the rest of your life, and giving up desserts (or nachos) forever isn’t exactly sustainable.” 

  • Making healthy choices is a mental game: Noom promotes behavioral changes based on psychology. It takes a deep look at triggers, stress, fear, memory, and motivation and how these factors can affect our choices.

  • Accountability is key: Your social circle can majorly impact your weight loss journey. Noom notes that connecting with coaches and a group of people with similar goals keeps motivation high and increases success. 

While Noom focuses on behavior, it misses big truths about how our bodies and weight loss work. Here are some critical issues with Noom’s antiquated weight loss strategies:

  • Inadequate information about nutrition: Aside from the daily calorie budget and recommended percentages of orange, yellow, and green foods, there is little guidance on nutrition. Noom’s color-coded system promotes certain less healthy low-calorie foods over nutritious higher-calorie foods

    Noom states that “Green foods have the highest concentration of nutrients,” and that “Orange foods have the least nutrients.” But their “Green” foods include items like whole-grain bread and skim milk and their “Orange” foods include items like chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts. 

  • Is no one mentioning macros? Quality and quantity matter when it comes to weight loss. Research continues to show that what you eat, in addition to how much, is important for both fat loss and physical health. Noom doesn’t guide its users through one of the most fundamental diet strategies (tracking your macros) or acknowledge that cravings increase drastically when you’re not eating the right portion of protein, fats, and carbs. 

  • Calorie cutting that takes me back: Noom claims to not be a restrictive diet, but its daily calorie budget can get uncomfortably, even dangerously low. Noom recommends daily calorie budgets as low as 1200 for women and 1400 for men. Based on online reviews, it’s fairly common for Noom to recommend these low numbers to its users. 

  • Something smells like a crash diet: From a bird’s-eye view, Noom’s weight loss theory goes like this: cut calories, use tricks to feel full, and stick to your diet with mindset shifts. Its “psych tricks for feeling fuller,” like using colorful plates, eating food with strong smells, and using heavy silverware sounds like strategies you’d find on the runway. 

  • Stuck on the scale: Noom users are trained and prompted to weigh themselves every morning. But the scale can’t discern fat loss. Understanding your body composition is crucial during a weight loss journey. Building muscle mass may cause the scale to scoot up slightly, but it also helps you burn more body fat and boosts your metabolism. Without other tools (from simple measuring tape to skin calipers), you can’t accurately assess your body composition and progress. 


You Need More Than Mental Endurance

A closer look at the app shows an antiquated weight loss strategy: Just eat low calories and you’ll lose weight. While focusing on the mental game of weight loss, Noom seems to miss that healthy weight loss requires more than a low-calorie diet and mental endurance. In my opinion, and after 20 years in the weight loss industry, skimping on calories isn’t sustainable, no matter how much motivation you have. 

To learn how to lose weight sustainably and safely, join my program LEAN. Over 74,000 people have learned how to lose weight and live healthier lives for themselves and their families. 

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