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Take It In: Noom an old weight-loss plan with a new twist

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Take It In: by Carol Bareuther

What’s now available in the palm of your hand has been available by the seat of your pants since the 1960s.

The Noom diet, named for an app of the same title, was the third most-Googled diet in 2019 for the second year in a row. Launched in 2008, Noom employs artificial intelligence and human coaches to deliver a personalized weight-loss plan. And while it is relatively new, it shares many of the same principles as traditional weight-loss methods, such as Weight Watchers, founded in 1963. That is, creating long-term results through changing lifestyle factors rather than restrictive fad dieting.

In a nutshell, Noom is a personalized weight-loss plan. To get started, it takes about 10 minutes on the app’s website to go through a series of questions. This means you need to type in such information as your height, current weight, and goal weight; answer yes or no to a diagnosis of medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes; respond about recent potentially stressful life events; check the boxes that apply on past dieting attempts; and pick from a list your self-assessed current level of exercise. 

Then, to get your plan, you have 15 minutes (a countdown clock appears online) to pay $1 via credit card. This payment entitles you to a 14-day trial, after which you can cancel. If you decide to continue with the full plan, it’s $45. Noom offers its users two 16-week programs. Included is a coach to keep you motivated and on track. You can also talk about diet and exercise challenges on social media platforms akin to an old-fashioned weekly Weight Watchers meeting.

The diet itself is based on a traffic light system in which colors equate to calories. Nearly 4 million foods are in the Noom database. “Green” foods to go for most often include spinach, low-fat yogurt and oatmeal. “Yellow” foods, such as turkey breast, dried cooked beans and quinoa, deserve greater caution in their intake. “Red” foods, such as bacon, pizza and French fries, are those to stop eating in large quantities. There’s certainly an undercurrent of resemblance to Weight Watcher’s point system, in which foods are ranked by points and the total points for the day are based on a person’s weight-loss or maintenance level of calories.

Does Noom work? A few studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals say yes. For example, researchers writing in the publication Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders found that participants lost 7.5 percent of their weight at the end of the four-month program, and a year later had maintained the majority of this loss. The researchers concluded that the Noom smartphone app was a useful tool to lose weight and maintain the loss.

Does this mean you should sign up today? Maybe. However, realize that it’s the key tenets that make Noom so successful – tracking what you eat and your exercise; learning to choose more healthful foods; and enlisting the support of a coach, friend, fellow dieter or professional, such as a dietitian – not necessarily Noom itself. These are the same principals that have made the nearly 60-year-old Weight Watchers program so successful and now internationally embraced. You can employ  each of these tenants on your own – for free. 

Yet, if having your diet plan in the palm of your hand is more appealing and convenient than sitting through a Weight Watcher’s meeting or setting up something on your own, then go for Noom – or one of the several similar apps, such as MyFitnessPal, Lose It!, Samsung Health and FatSecret. 

The bottom line is that no matter how you do it, achieving a healthy weight and healthy eating and exercise habits will last a lifetime.

Carol Bareuther is a registered dietitian and freelance health and nutrition writer. Comments are welcome below.

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