2020 and 2021 did a number on a lot of us. The pandemic not only changed everything about how we interact with society outside, but it also affected us mentally.
I finished my Ph.D. during the pandemic, and it was definitely a struggle to keep all aspects of my life on track when I felt like I was writing the most important document of my life (news flash: your dissertation isn’t the most important document of your life; that’s like peaking in high school, but that’s for another post).
I grew up really fortunate to have had healthy values instilled in me as a kid. I don’t turn my nose up at vegetables. But, the pandemic added to the stress that I already felt as a grad student. Combining that with having to quit my workout classes and not having a reason to walk 30 minutes a day, I gained about 20 pounds.
I slowly realized that I was using food as a way to escape from my personal struggles. It was an easy way to distract myself and feel good in the moment. My seemingly healthy relationship with food turned into something more dependent.
I was still meal prepping every Saturday, and I still ate oatmeal for breakfast. But the other meals outside of my meal prep started getting really unhealthy – some major mental gymnastics were going on.
I was first exposed to Noom and the Noom diet through some Reddit Noom reviews and YouTube ads. I thought it sounded too good to be true – not having to exercise, just recording meals (which I was already accustomed to doing), and doing a few minutes of lessons a day? Sounded like a major cash grab that targeted vulnerable people looking for any tool they could find to change themselves. I read a bunch of Noom reviews and they sounded fairly promising, although I knew a lot of them were paid (mine isn’t). Looking on forums, it intrigued me that there was a wide range of opinions about the things people liked and disliked about it.
Well, guess what, I might have been one of those people. I installed the Noom app, signed up for a 2-week trial and went for it. I had the option to end my membership after those 2 weeks if I wasn’t feeling it. I had a sense that the way I was eating and the way I constantly thought about food might be helped by something more mental health and mindfulness-based like Noom, rather than something more exercise-oriented, especially as someone who simply wasn’t inclined to exercise.
Plus, I knew that investing my money into workout classes really helped me as someone who had no natural inclination to exercise, so I knew that paying for a service was a good incentive to get me to stick to it.
The Basics of Noom
You can find descriptions of Noom everywhere, so I’m not going to bore you with all of the details. I will give you a quick, 2-point summary of Noom from my perspective, though:
- You record your food intake using 3 color categories that gradually increase in caloric density (green, yellow, red) and are allowed to allocate a certain percentage of your daily food intake to each category, with green being the least calorically dense foods
- You read 5-min lessons every day mainly to increase your awareness about why you eat the way you do so that you can slowly change your food choices and thought processes towards food over time
There’s obviously a lot more but I want to share my own experiences, because I know that’s what people are most curious about (rather than stuff you can Google and find written elsewhere). I’ll also probably end up explaining more in the post too.
Also, after the 2-week free trial, the Noom monthly price came out to $45 a month. That might sound like a lot to people, and if it is, that’s totally fair. For me, though, it’s pretty much the cost of 2 Uber Eats orders that I no longer spent money on, so that tradeoff helped me stick with it. Whatever works for you, though! Their yearly subscription is way cheaper as well, at $199, which comes out to about $17 a month. I’m still deciding if I need it any more than a handful of months.
Progress & Best Things About Noom
I lost 6 pounds in 1 month! My starting weight was 140 pounds, and I was at 134 pounds 1 month in. The 3 things about the Noom program itself (aside from my own Noom food recommendations which I’ll mention below) that I think helped me the most were:
1. THE COLOR CATEGORIES: The color categories initially made me realize how much of my food intake was red. It was pretty shocking and unnerving because I thought I made healthy choices for the most part. That revelation made me want to increase my green food intake. I was really surprised at how mindlessly I was choosing to eat calorically dense snacks and foods when I could have been going for less calorically dense and more healthy options! For example, I was choosing to eat a few cookies after my healthy, meal prepped dinner, when I could have been eating a ton of grapes and a piece of chocolate. It isn’t the most scientific approach to eating, and doesn’t take into consideration vitamins and macros, but that’s what made it easier to switch things up, just by confirming the color category the food item’s in.
2. THE AUTO-SET CALORIE LIMIT: Noom sets your daily calorie limit based on your goal weight and when you want to achieve it. You can change up the goal weight and the pacing to change the daily calorie limit anytime you want in your settings, but I haven’t thought to change it myself because it’s been pretty manageable. It also automatically updates when you exercise. I walked 5000 steps today (so crazy) and it burned 240-ish calories. Noom gives you half of those burned calories back so it bumped up my intake limit by 120 calories.
3. DAILY WEIGH-INS: Noom makes you weigh yourself daily. If you’re not comfortable with this, Noom isn’t for you. Fortunately, I haven’t had any major issues with my weight or constantly thinking about weight in the past, and starting to weigh myself daily wasn’t a difficult task. It’s best to do it at the exact same point in the day, every day. I do it right after I roll out of bed and use the bathroom. I don’t weigh myself at any other point in the day. Daily weigh-ins sounded excessive to me at first, and maybe it does for you, too. But you’ll realize as the weeks roll by that your weight loss will be crystal clear to you as you rack up those data points.
The other aspects of Noom, such as the group coach, individual coach, step-meter, water intake button, and lesson progression visual didn’t feel like they really made a huge difference in my results. You get put into a group of about 30 users and it’s nice to hear that they all have struggles like you do, but their progress isn’t relatable sometimes (some people say they lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks) so it’s not always useful or motivating to read.
I haven’t tried to interact with my individual coach because they seem like a bot and I didn’t want that added pressure to have to converse with someone. The group coach seems real and their messages to the group are motivating, so that’s a nice aspect, albeit not super important to me.
Best Noom Food Picks for Success
So I’ve only been at this for 1 month, but there have been a few standout picks that have really helped me stick with my Noom journey and change up my food-related desires & habits slowly, but surely.
Here are my current picks for the best foods for Noom success:
SOUPS: There are so many incredible soup recipes out there that are not boring, taste awesome, are super filling and are very healthy. Soups are also really easy to make (one-pot FTW!) and store. I meal prep my soup and then put it in a large glass food container. Every day, I open it up and scoop out a premeditated amount (usually ~2 cups) and put it in a bowl to microwave. I meal prep on Saturday mornings, and the soup is perfectly fine this way all the way until dinner on Friday! You can input a custom recipe in Noom once, so you don’t have to keep typing in like 7 ingredients every time you eat the soup. Here are some of my favorite soups I’ve made over the past month that have seriously rocked my world and I didn’t get tired of eating 5 days straight: Creamy White Bean Soup with Kale, Rosemary and Lemon, Classic Minestrone Soup, and Lemon Chickpea Orzo Soup.
BROWN RICE: Noom categorizes brown rice as a green food, but white rice as a yellow food. It’s because brown rice has a higher fiber content than white rice, and that makes you feel fuller longer. Therefore, brown rice is less calorically dense than white rice. My meal prepped lunches have recently been brown rice bowls which allow me to switch up the toppings (or mix-ins) and still have that healthy, filling brown rice base. I’ve recently been loving mixing in kimchi because of how tasty it is and other foods like ground turkey and veggies of choice (listed below) to make it nutritious. Here’s an example: Kimchi Brown Rice Bliss Bowls.
BELL PEPPER: I cut up 2-3 bell peppers a week into strips and keep them in a Tupperware in my fridge to snack on. In one sitting, I’d eat maybe 8-10 bell pepper strips with hummus, cheese, or some other delectable pairing. Sometimes, I’ll eat the bell pepper on its own. I’ve always loved snacking on raw bell pepper and it’s surprisingly filling, so it’s great for Noom! Having things like this to reach for when you’re hungry makes it so you don’t have any other choice and you don’t get influenced by your hunger to make a rash decision to eat something not as great for you.
GRAPES: 1 grape is about 2 calories. It’s just one of those foods that are pretty much free. You can eat as much as you want and you’ll be fine – just don’t give yourself a stomach ache. What I love about grapes is that unlike other foods in Noom, you don’t really have to keep track of how many you’re eating. They’re just grapes and they’ll never really make a dent in your caloric intake if you’re having a few handfuls. I feel kind of nutty counting individual grapes, too. They’re just a great snack to have around.
MILK TEA: This is literally a silver bullet for fullness. I don’t. Even. Understand. How. It. Works. But it makes me feel so full. If this list could include just one item, it’ll be milk tea. Hands down, no question. This drink 100% contributed to my weight loss. So I’ve been drinking homemade milk tea since I was a kid. I love the flavors in it – sweet, creamy, and with that nice Earl Grey tea or green tea aroma (no need for the expensive matcha powder, regular green tea powder is totally fine). Nowadays, I make it with stevia and half and half. So, it’s the best of both worlds: no added sugar, but still having that awesome, creamy taste. I only make a regular 8-ounce cup, too. That’s a “short” at Starbucks! The half and half goes into the red category, of course, but it’s literally a splash. I think it’s a great “dessert”.
SWEET POTATO, MUSHROOM, BUTTERNUT SQUASH, PEAS: You know that annoying feeling of eating vegetables and not feeling full after? I hate that feeling and so I figured out that these are my favorite Noom-friendly vegetables to eat cooked, mainly because of how filling they are. They feel substantial. They don’t feel like nothing. Mixing them into my brown rice meals, putting them on my brown rice bowls, using them in my soups, and simply eating them on their own have helped me along in my Noom journey! There are probably other vegetables out there that are just as filling, but for now these are my favorites.
CHEESE: Quantifiable foods are the key to Noom success. I love cheese. So I realized that having cheese in the form of quantifiable amounts, rather than huge hunks that I cut pieces off of, would help me with my Noom journey. Cheese comes in “snack” sizes that look like they’d be on charcuterie boards, sticks, and even in little snack packs with other pre-set snack amounts, all of which are super conducive to knowing exactly what your portion size is. Cheese is definitely red, but you are ALLOWED to eat red food every day. You’re encouraged to.
HERSHEY’S KISSES/CHOCOLATE: This is just for fun, but Hershey’s Kisses have helped me make a huge mental shift using Noom. Similar to cheese, Hershey’s Kisses are quantifiable and discrete (not discreet!) snacks that work well with Noom. Each one is 22 calories, we know this, and it’s not going to change. So I love having one or two after dinner with my milk tea to help round out my meal in a super mindful way. This works for any other chocolate that has just a few calories per piece. Noom isn’t about restriction. It’s about awareness!
This post doesn’t cover everything I have to say about Noom, and maybe I’ll feel like doing an update in the future. It’s just a brief overview and contains the major takeaways from my first month on Noom! I’m really excited to continue to work towards my weight goal and more importantly to keep improving my relationship with food.
I’m not getting paid for this. I honestly think it’s changing how I think about food and is helping me identify a bunch of habits and triggers that define my relationship with food. I also don’t plan on doing this forever, and don’t know if I’ll even be doing Noom a few months from now.
I wouldn’t recommend Noom to everyone, especially those who have a history of disordered eating or are wary of measuring their weight every day. But, if what I mentioned sounds like something you might find helpful, or you’ve been noticing that you could use a bit more structure in how you eat, then definitely give their 2-week free trial an honest try. It might surprise you!