Time, cost, and convenience are common barriers to living healthier but mobile health-apps like Noom Coach might just be the answer to all three.
The three-pronged approach to a healthier lifestyle includes three critical strategies: nutrition therapy, planned exercise beyond everyday activities, and working with a qualified health care professional like a Registered Dietitian (RD or RDN), Registered Nurse, or Psychologist. Guidance and evidence-based information provides lasting improvements to those managing their weight or diabetes (1).
Health care professionals and researchers are trying desperately to curb the rapidly increasing rates of obesity and diabetes. In some states, obesity affects 35% or more of the population. Today, one in ten people have diabetes and without interventions, up to 30% of people with pre-diabetes will develop full-blown type 2 diabetes within 5 years, according to the Center’s for Disease Control (2).
Image: Prevalence of Self-Reported Obesity Among U.S. Adults by State and Territory, BRFSS, 2015 Source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
Putting Noom to the Test
Researchers put Noom Coach, a holistic health & wellness app, to the test to see just how effective the app was. They were trying to see just how much weight do Noom users ("Noomers") lose and what indicates successful weight loss?
Noom delivers a 16-week ‘Healthy Weight Program’ and a 16-week Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). Forty three participants started the DPP using Noom Coach. Thirty-six of the participants finished the 16-week program and although the sample size is small, the results were impressive.
On average, Noomers lost 15 pounds by the end the program. That’s about 0.6 to 1 pound per week at 16 and 24 weeks, respectively (3). This rate of weight loss is safe, preserves lean body tissue and is easier to adhere to than extreme weight loss (4). A person can lose this weight and actually keep it off, which makes Noom Coach an ideal weight loss program (and in my opinion, a threat to the “diet” industry).
What is Noom and what do Noomers do?
As an all-encompassing app, Noom has a variety of health promoting features. Noomers are invited to take full advantage of all of the app’s tools available for ultimate weight or diabetes management success. It is even useful for the health-conscious person who just wants to keep track of their healthy-habits. For a monthly payment of $60 Noomers’ get full benefits to the app. This is much cheaper than the medical costs for people with obesity, which costs about $1,429 higher than those of normal weight (3).
The app includes an easy-to use calorie-counter with color coded nutrition analysis, a pedometer (which only works if you carry your phone), weekly weigh-ins, a uniquely designed nutrition plan from a dedicated health coach, a support group composed of peers who have similar goals and other customizable features (like recipe creators and exercise log). Noomers can even log their blood pressures! All of this happens at the Noomer’s convenience, so time really isn’t an excuse as it takes just a few seconds to log in. There are also reminders and no late fees :o) .
My personal experience with Noom:
I was asked to review the Noom Coach application in the beginning of October. Immediately what I loved about it was that I could log in my meals without being bombarded with my intake of fats, proteins, carbohydrates and other micronutrients. There was just a gentle note of my calorie intake and at completion of my day I could see the “calorie density” of my food choices.
This concept is exceptionally important to me as an RD. My goal is for people to be less concerned with specific macro/micronutrient intake and more concerned with achieving an overall healthy eating pattern (5). There are two reasons for this.
First, without understanding the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges it is common to become overwhelmed, sometimes even obsessive, with the number of grams of carbs, fat, or protein, when there is no conclusive evidence that a specific ratio is superior to another (6).
The wildly popular (but misleading) macro-manipulation diets are effective primarily because they create a calorie deficit. So low-carb or low fat, it really doesn’t matter in the long-run (6,7). Weight loss happens when you eat fewer calories than you need, and Noom Coach has tailored their software to this fact.
Noom’s calorie-density color scheme provides an educational piece without creating cognitive distortions that most weight loss programs are guilty of doing. By using the nutrient-analysis function, Noomers can see which foods in their diets are high in 'calories per gram' in red and foods that are low in calories for each gram in green.
For example, peanut butter is a red food, spinach is a green food. At first, this confused me because my flax & hemp seeds at breakfast were red and I thought Noom registered these an unhealthy. Since I had a health coach, I quickly messaged her (shout out to Ivette!). She explained that the rationale behind this color-coding system is not meant to be a “good food bad food” indicator.
Noomers therefore aren’t subject to polarized thinking; rather they learn what foods have more calories than others. I was so grateful for her response, which leads me to my favorite part of the app.
A Health Coach at Your Fingertips:
While Noom is so much more than just a health coach app, I would say this is probably the best feature. Accountability and support is critical in any weight loss or diabetes management program (8). At any point of the regular workday, I could message my coach and she could message me back. Since my goal was to start running regularly, she sent me reminders and prompts to motivate me. She even sent me a link to an article of ’10 Tips to Running in the Cold’ because these Denver nights are getting a bit chilly and I need a plan!
The team of health coaches at Noom come up individual strategies to help Noomers reach their goals. This is not a weight loss boot camp in an app. Their motivational interviewing (MI) techniques help guide users to come up with their own plan and there is plenty of research to support MI’s effectiveness (9).
Each coach has a degree or credential in the field of psychology, nutrition, or both. They have the expert knowledge you would expect from a health care professional, all through a fun, engaging app. No white coat syndrome here! Some of them even have dedicated Instagram accounts to keep things social. (Noom Coach Laura and Noom Coach Cherina sharing some motivational posts on their IG accounts):
There is one thing I wish Noom Coach app had, and that is a way to upload a recipe from a website and enter it into the log. For instance I wanted to upload my recipe for Chocolate Pistachio Bars into the app so I could log my intake.
The app does not have this feature yet, but I messaged my coach and she said their engineers are working on that feature. I'm looking forward to it! For now, I just build in the recipes. Since it's a newer app, it will take some time to build up the database as it gets more popular. The feedback feature is very accessible and Noom is always improving their software based on users’ experiences.
So far, my experience has been very positive. As I mentioned earlier, my goal was to add running into my workout plan. Weight loss wasn't my primary goal, but I knew that if I adhered to a running plan and kept my calories the same I would lose weight. The results? A few pounds lower than when I started and running in my favorite park at least 2 times a week!
Noom is a great app for anyone just looking to organize their healthy lifestyle. There is a free version of the app with basic features. Find out more about Noom here!
While some blog posts are sponsored to keep this blog afloat, all opinions and research are my own.
1. Franz MJ, Boucher JL, Evert AB. Evidence-based diabetes nutrition therapy recommendations are effective: the key is individualization. Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy. 2014;7:65-72. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S45140.
2.Adult Obesity Facts. Overweight is common, serious, and costly. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html. Reviewed September 1, 2016. Accessed October 25, 2016.
3. Michaelides, Andreas, et al. "Weight loss efficacy of a novel mobile Diabetes Prevention Program delivery platform with human coaching." BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care 4.1 (2016): e000264.
4. Rodriguez, Nancy R., Nancy M. DiMarco, and Susie Langley. "Nutrition and athletic performance." Medicine and science in sports and exercise 41.3 (2009): 709-731.
5.Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. "Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee." Washington (DC): USDA and US Department of Health and Human Services (2015).
6.Franz, Marion J., et al. "Weight-loss outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of weight-loss clinical trials with a minimum 1-year follow-up."Journal of the American Dietetic Association 107.10 (2007): 1755-1767.
7.Gardner, Christopher D., et al. "Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN diets for change in weight and related risk factors among overweight premenopausal women: the A TO Z Weight Loss Study: a randomized trial."Jama 297.9 (2007): 969-977.
8.Harvey‐Berino, Jean, et al. "Effect of internet support on the long‐term maintenance of weight loss." Obesity research 12.2 (2004): 320-329.
9.Burke, Brian L., Hal Arkowitz, and Marisa Menchola. "The efficacy of motivational interviewing: a meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials." Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 71.5 (2003): 843.
(Figure 1) http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/statistics/slides/maps_diabetesobesity_trends.pdf