Measuring impact at Noom: How many engineers does it take to lose a pound of fat?

by | May 7, 2019 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

Marco Tabini, VP Engineering, Noom

Health is a complex topic that encompasses a myriad of factors, from the environmental to the genetic. Indeed, our mission here at Noom is to help our users tackle their health from multiple angles, using proven behavior-modification techniques designed to affect everything from exercise to nutrition and psychological well-being.

In most (though not all) cases, however, it turns out that weight loss is a good proxy indicator for overall health improvement. For example, the National Institute of Health’s long running Diabetes Prevention Program found that losing just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight (and keeping it off) could delay the onset of Type–2 diabetes by years—or even prevent it altogether.

Naturally, our users are also big fans of shedding a few extra pounds. Even if their health is not at the top of their minds when they choose Noom, losing weight makes them happy and much more likely to continue using our products.

As a business, therefore, we keep a keen eye on weight loss as a way of determining how well we are serving our customers. Whenever someone enters their weight in our mobile app, we record it in our main database. From there, a nightly process uses Apache Airflow to aggregate all the data, anonymize it to protect our users’ privacy, and then store it in our AWS Redshift data warehouse, where we use it alongside a number of other metrics to gauge our success.

It’s as individual Noomers, however, that we are most attached to this number, because it’s a simple way to measure the impact that we have on the well being of the folks who decide to trust us with their money and their health. We like to think that working at Noom means helping to save lives, and this is an easy way to figure out just how we do it.

This is particularly true for those of us on the engineering team; after all, a big part of our job is to enable our coaches to offer individualized support to each Noom user while managing a caseload that sometimes reaches into the hundreds of patients.

As you can imagine, we’re pretty proud of our work. In the last year alone, based on the weigh-in measurements sent in by our users, Noom has helped our users lose more than 1.3 million pounds (or nearly 590,000 kilograms, if you prefer metric) of body weight. To put things in perspective, that’s heavier than a fully loaded Airbus 380 at takeoff—the whole airplane, not just the people on it!

So, then, how many engineers does it take to lose a pound of weight? One way to look at it is that, with around 25 staff, each engineer contributes to around 52 thousand pounds of lost weight in a year, though that also encompasses the work of hundreds of coaches, content developers, and support specialists. I prefer to think of it in terms of the fact that, on a good day, the coaching tools that our engineering team has built help Noom users lose more than 21,000 pounds (9,500 kilograms). Now, I don’t know what kind of airliner that’s equivalent to, but it certainly feels good.

Of course, not all weight loss is healthy, and losing too many pounds—something that happens more often than you’d think—can have negative effects on one’s health. For this reason, we have developed sophisticated algorithms that help us identify users who might be at risk of harming themselves, and our coaching department has formed a squad of dedicated coaches who step in to help them stay safe. In those cases, we’ll be perfectly happy for our weight loss record to be well into the negative numbers.

Does this kind of impact on the world sound exciting? Join our team today!