Why Noom is Hard to Define

by | Jan 26, 2022 | Last updated Mar 2, 2022

There’s a lot of talk about diets these days, and a lot of questions about whether Noom is one. We wanted to talk a little bit about how we think about this, and how Noom fits into the conversation. 

Starting with the basics – what we mean when we talk about diets. One definition, from the Greek word diaita, refers to what one habitually eats and drinks. Or another definition focuses on a diet as a single, special course of food. But diet has also assumed a more contemporary definition, one that’s a stand-in for “weight loss program.” 

Let’s be clear: Noom Weight, one of the two programs Noom offers today, is a weight management program. Some of its features – food recommendations, caloric guidance – are shared by other weight loss programs. But to call Noom simply a diet misses the bigger picture. 

We consider Noom (including Noom Weight) to be more than a diet. Noom is centered on principles of psychology, and our mission is to help people build healthy habits for the long term. The food logging and caloric guidance are tools that are part of Noom Weight, but they are just part of our science-backed, sustainable, holistic program. We have found over the last 13 years that Noom helps people achieve all sorts of health goals – like staying active, improving sleep, reducing risk factors for other health conditions, and, yes, losing or managing their weight.

Like many people, we were quick to shun the word “diet.” For us, there were a few reasons. For starters, that third weight loss definition of a diet has taken on a life of its own – one that is filled with stigma and apprehension. Even the word diet has acquired a bad connotation. This is largely because of the many harmful and unsuccessful, but somehow popular, “diets” out there – raspberry ketone, cabbage soup, master cleanse, the list goes on. 

These are the diets we reject, and that we think Noom Weight is an alternative to. We are not anti-diet, but we are anti the diets that aren’t backed by science, that don’t work, are harmful, or are focused on the short-term. Everything we do at Noom, including our Weight program, is backed by science. We have more than 30 peer-reviewed scientific articles that inform our approach and its effectiveness. Our team of behavioral health experts has PhDs and master’s degrees in psychology, integrative medicine, neuroscience, and statistics. This leads to a product that is safe and that works.

We hear from so many of our Noomers that they view Noom as a holistic health and wellness solution, one that’s helped them take control of and improve their mental and physical well-being. We’ve also heard from Noomers over and over that our psychology-based approach is different from other weight management programs they’ve tried. Said another way, most people who experience Noom in its entirety see it as something so much more than – and different from – a diet.

Among the top goals of those who join Noom are improving longevity and enjoying life, confidence and self-esteem, in addition to improving physical fitness and physical conditions. And we see this every day with Noomers’ non-scale-related results.

In fact, our research team recently published a paper that tested a hypothesis that is counter to commonly held beliefs about most diet programs: body appreciation and self-compassion increase while on the Noom Weight program. 

We asked users who were new to Noom, in week 1 and week 16 of the program, about their feelings toward body acceptance, body image flexibility, and self-compassion using scientifically validated surveys. Sure enough, after 16 weeks, Noomers’ body acceptance and self-compassion went up by 6.5% and 6.0% respectively, and rumination and brooding went down by 5%.

Three other findings stood out in contrast to commonly held diet misconceptions:

  1. Interestingly, changes in body positivity and self-compassion were not correlated to weight loss, meaning that whether or not a Noomer lost weight, they still learned to appreciate their bodies and themselves more. 
  2. The more highly engaged a Noomer was with Noom’s psychological content – such as reading articles or talking to their coach – the more their body positivity and self-compassion improved. 
  3. Tracking behaviors and progress on Noom (e.g., with weight or food logging) showed no negative effect on body positivity and self-compassion. In fact, tracking one’s meals was actually correlated to improved body positivity and self-compassion over time. 

You can read more here.

For those who are familiar with Noom, this is probably not surprising. If you’ve used Noom Weight, you know that our approach is grounded in acceptance-based and cognitive behavioral therapies that help you better accept and understand your thoughts and emotions – including those towards yourself and your body. 

Also, dieting is also often equated with inevitable failure. While it is incredibly important that a program is backed by science, that only gets you so far if the program doesn’t work effectively or for the long-term – and most don’t. Even many diets that are backed by science, often don’t work because they simply provide an ‘eat this, not that’ approach that is difficult to follow and sustain, or simply tell you to restrict your calories, but don’t tell you how. Take the Mediterranean diet for example – it’s praised by experts, but how are you supposed to always eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, heart-healthy fats all week let alone for life? We’re human after all. It’s important to have a sustainable approach. At Noom, we believe that means understanding the how and why behind your behaviors.

Most everyone knows that they should eat healthier and exercise more but most people don’t understand the science behind their choices, why they make certain decisions, or why their brain craves more sugar, for example. Better understanding yourself and the psychology behind your habits helps you form healthier habits to ultimately lead a healthier life for the long term. This is the unlock we help people find with Noom. 

“The psychology-based approach is what has made the difference for me, and unlearning why I’ve developed my habits in the first place makes it easier to make new choices.”

Noom Weight User Carolyn

“I have become more mindful of what I eat and why I eat. Noom works because it helps you to create sustained and healthy eating habits. Beyond the scale, my blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar are all down.”

Noom Weight User Angelique

We agree with Noomers who feel that Noom is more than just a diet. Noom is more than a diet empowering people to take control of their health – while also providing Noomers with tools like food logging that may be typically tied to dieting but are scientifically-proven to improve weight loss success, if that is the goal. Noom does not prescribe a certain definition of health or what a healthy behavior or healthy food is. You decide how you want to define your health – Noom can only provide education about what each choice means and help you meet your goals.

Lastly, we take eating disorders very seriously and have several safeguards in place. We also screen people out of Noom if they have an active eating disorder and our team of thousands of coaches is trained to be hypervigilant to signs that a user may be struggling within the program, and remove them or offer additional resources as needed. You can read more about this and related topics here.