Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Noom: A Diet in Sheep's Clothing

By now, you've probably heard of Noom, the health and wellness company that's marketing itself as revolutionary.

Don't be fooled.

When you visit Noom's website, you complete a quick questionnaire that alerts you to "how much weight you'll lose for good." This is the first red flag. Most people know that intentional weight-loss efforts (i.e., diets) don't work and that any weight loss is usually regained (and then some). Noom, however, promises "lifelong" weight-loss. But here's the thing: Noom's only been around since 2008. At best, they have 10 years of data on their method. Promising lifelong weight-loss 10 years in is impossible (and unethical, but that's another can of worms).

Members pay $59/month for a "wellness program" that focuses on mental and behavioral change. Noom advertises "unique curricula" for:

  • Healthy weight
  • Hypertension prevention
  • Diabetes prevention
  • Hypertension management
  • Diabetes management
  • Comorbidity of hypertension and diabetes

It's one thing to take a behavioral health approach to treating and preventing chronic illness. But chronic health issues can be addressed without any changes in weight. Focusing on behaviors can lead to significant health improvement. Tracking, and trying to manipulate weight, interferes with this and often causes people to stop participating in the behavioral changes they want to make. Moreover, the concept of a "healthy weight" is misleading. People can be healthy across the weight spectrum. There are fat, healthy people and skinny, unhealthy people. Using weight as a marker for health misses the mark and can lead to dangerous health outcomes.

Noom promises "evidence based curricula" and "trained cognitive behavior coaches." Guess what? The evidence shows that intentional weight loss efforts don't work! And cognitive behavior coaches should be focused on doing no harm above all else. Attempts to manipulate weight, to focus on the "health issues" of "overweight" and "obesity" that Noom does, inevitably leads to harm.

Just because Noom encourages a focus on mindset doesn't mean it's not a run-of-the-mill diet. Any program, no matter how much it speaks of health and wellness, no matter how much it promotes mindfulness or psychological concepts, that sets weight-loss goals is, by definition, just a diet.

One of their blogs reads, "At Noom it’s our mission to help people everywhere live healthier, happier lives." But, dieting often backfires, leading to weight cycling (with significant health consequences), disordered eating (which can turn into eating disorders), and significant interference in one's own ability to regulate appetite, to recognize and trust hunger and fullness cues, and to work toward a healthy relationship with food.

Don't fall for the commercials, the focus on health/wellness, or the pretty packaging. Noom is just a diet, and diets don't work. They cause more harm then good, even if they advertise a focus on health and wellness, even if they focus on behavioral change, and even when they manipulate you into thinking they're not what they are. 

You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at

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