Looking into weight loss programs? There’s a high chance you’ve come across Noom, a hugely popular weight loss app that promises to help you “stop dieting” and “get lifelong results.” Since its inception in 2008, it’s quickly become one of the buzziest diets on the Internet — and now boasts more than 45 million users worldwide.
Unlike many other diets that may focus solely on the physical aspects of weight loss, Noom claims to take a psychology-based approach, combining food tracking with cognitive behavioral therapy and individualized coaching to help you achieve your goals. According to its website, Noom uses “science and personalization” to help users “better understand your relationship with food, how to be more mindful of your habits and give you the knowledge and support you need for long-lasting change.”
But there’s a cost associated with the diet plan and its signature coaching offerings, which some may not be aware of. And you may be wondering if the subscription is actually worth it in the end.
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Like any other paid diet program, Noom has its fair share of pros and cons. It has fallen under scrutiny in recent years, namely for some of the program’s marketing tactics as well as complaints regarding its free-trial cancellation. That’s why our team of registered dietitians at the Good Housekeeping Institute tested the program themselves, evaluating everything from coaching practices to daily calorie allotments. Here’s everything you need to know about the diet plan, including how much Noom costs for a subscription — and how to figure out if it’s the right fit for you.
Editor’s note: Weight loss, health and body image are complex subjects — before deciding to go on a diet, we invite you gain a broader perspective by reading our exploration into the hazards of diet culture.
What is Noom?
Designed by behavioral psychologists, nutritionists and personal trainers, Noom’s Weight program is aimed at helping you lose weight in the long run. It claims to focus on making tangible, sustainable lifestyle shifts rather than encouraging more extreme styles of eating (e.g., cutting out specific food groups or nutrients). The app allows you to:
- Generate a personalized calorie breakdown based on a series of lifestyle questions
- Track the foods you eat by searching a database or scanning barcodes
- Log exercise, weight, blood pressure and blood sugar for those on diabetic-specific plans
- Receive in-app one-on-one health coaching during business hours
- Stay motivated with interactive articles and quizzes
Since the service was developed by psych docs, the ideology behind the coaching and content is designed to “help you gain specific knowledge, tools and skills that will help you change your habits, lose weight and make progress far beyond the scale,” Noom states.
Developers also claim that people who use the Noom app and successfully adapt a healthy lifestyle lose an average of 15.5 pounds in just 16 weeks.
How does Noom work?
To get started with Noom, you’ll first need to download the free Noom app on your phone. (You can also get started on their website, but you’ll need to eventually download the app to access the program’s full features). The app is available to download on both IOS and Android. Here’s how the entire process works, step by step:
- Take an onboarding quiz. You’ll first be taken through a detailed set of onboarding questions to determine your ideal Noom plan. The quiz asks for basic demographic profile information — like gender, height and weight — and specific questions about your lifestyle habits and behaviors, as well as activity level and current dietary lifestyle. You’ll also be asked about how much weight you are looking to lose (up to 40 pounds) as well as the timing for your weight-management goals. Based on your answers, Noom will then generate a personalized plan for you that includes the predicted date of when you’ll reach your goal weight.
- Complete lessons and connect with your coaches. After choosing a payment plan and creating a log-in, Noom will ask you to complete 10 mini-lessons in psychology and behavioral change in 16 weeks. You decide immediately if you want to spend a minimum of five minutes to a maximum of 16 minutes a day on the lessons.
- Get your calorie goal and meet your coaches. About two days in, you’ll be connected with a goal coach who will personally reach out about twice a week to check in, ask about your progress and send routine encouragement. A couple of days after that, you’ll also be assigned to a peer chat group and a group coach, who will moderate the peer chat and sometimes respond to individual comments and questions.
- Start tracking your activity. Your personalized plan will assign a daily calorie budget, or the number of calories you need to aim for every day. To help you keep on track of your plan, you’ll start recording all of your meals — by searching the database of foods or scanning barcodes in the app — as well as your physical activity. The app offers a built-in step counter that counts how many steps you took (as long as your phone is on you all day). Noom also encourages you to log other daily health markers like water intake, blood pressure and blood glucose.
Many had criticized Noom for not asking about a history of disordered eating in onboarding questions; our 2022 testing environment indicated that Noom is now including questions regarding eating disorder history in the initial questionnaire. They also ask about additional lifestyle habits, current health status and other conditions — including your risk for conditions like diabetes and heart disease — before generating your program plan which includes a daily calorie budget.
Many critics of the app have noted that Noom would previously set moderately restricted calorie allotments for the day, typically around 1,200 calories for most users, which is neither healthy nor sustainable. But it seems that Noom has changed its tune; per the website, the minimum calorie budget is now 1,320 for females and 1,400 for males. Our experience with the app gave us pretty conservative weight-loss numbers ranging from 1,600 calories to 2,400 calories depending on how fast we wanted to lose weight.
What foods can you eat on the Noom Diet?
Unlike most other diet plans, Noom doesn’t restrict any particular foods or food groups — nor does it track meals solely for the purpose of counting calories. Instead, to help make counting calories more intuitive, Noom uses a unique color-coded food system, which sorts foods into different categories based on caloric density. The categories are broken down as follows:
- Green foods: These are the least calorie-dense and/or contain the highest concentration of healthy nutrients. Examples include certain vegetables, fruits, egg whites, tofu, shrimp, non-fat milk and non-fat dairy products and more.
- Yellow foods: These have more calories and/or less healthy nutrients per serving than green foods. They include avocado, salmon, lean ground beef, black beans, olives, hummus and more.
- Red foods: These are the most calorie-dense foods and/or have the least healthy nutrients. Examples include full-fat dairy products, nut and seed butters, unsalted rice cakes and more.
The Noom diet plan encourages you to eat mostly “green” and “yellow” foods, but it never says you can’t have “red” foods — users are simply encouraged to moderate and be mindful of how much of these foods they eat. Each time you log a food, Noom instantly classifies it with its respective color category, which allows you to visualize and keep track of each area of your diet.
How much does Noom cost?
Depending on the time of year, a free trial may be available, but Noom program pricing typically starts at $60/month. Prices go down as you commit to longer subscriptions. The cheapest price for Noom is on the annual auto-recurring plan, which costs $199 (averages to just over $16 a month). Here is the full list of pricing options that are available:
- 1-month auto-renewing plan $60 USD
- 2-month auto-renewing plan $119 USD
- 3-month auto-renewing plan $149 USD
- 4-month auto-renewing plan $159 USD
- 5-month auto-renewing plan $164 USD
- 6-month auto-renewing plan $169 USD
- 7-month auto-renewing plan $174 USD
- 8-month auto-renewing plan $179 USD
- 9-month auto-renewing plan $185 USD
- 10-month auto-renewing plan $189 USD
- 11-month auto-renewing plan $195 USD
- 12-month auto-renewing plan $199 USD
While users have complained in the past that canceling after a free trial was very difficult, Noom seemingly made the process easier; you can cancel under the Settings section under the Manage Subscription tab. Since our testers purchased a subscription through Apple, it was easy to cancel on the device under ‘iTunes subscriptions’.
Our nutrition experts like that Noom focuses on behavior changes and building long-term healthy habits, instead of promising quick fixes with weight-loss shakes and supplements. You don’t have to eliminate any foods, and Noom also emphasizes important holistic health principles like ample sleep and coping skills to manage stress. One of the first mini-courses you take asks you to step back and consider potential obstacles that will prevent you from sticking to your goals, as well as to understand the factors that drive food choices in the moment at hand.
The app also encourages eating real, whole foods and recommends more nutrient-dense meals and snacks as often as possible. An algorithm breaks down your personalized energy needs and asks you to log what you eat, an evidence-based method that helps you stay in touch with how much you’re eating and what types of foods you gravitate towards. The food database felt robust to us, and we were pleased to see it included dishes from meal-delivery services like Hello Fresh for easy tracking. You can scan the barcode on packaged items, too, which is helpful for real-time feedback when you’re food shopping.
Another perk of Noom is the option for individualized coaching. You can opt to do Noom as a self-guided program, but those looking for more a personalized approach can get one-on-one guidance with a professional coach. We had a good experience with the coaches: Our testing interactions indicated they were kind and quite helpful. Plus, Noom coaches do have to go through over 75 hours of training through ‘Noomiversity’ — and they can additionally enroll in Noom’s Health Coach Certification Program to sit for the certifying exam to become a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. They aren’t necessarily a registered dietitian or personal trainer, but having a real-life coach included in the $ 60-month price point is a pretty great bonus.
Noom used to advertise as not being a diet, but make no mistake, Noom is certainly a diet — plain and simple. If you have a history of disordered eating, then Noom or any other diet in general is not recommended for you. Noom seems to have made improvements since receiving criticism, including now asking questions about any history of eating disorders as well as readjusting the calorie ranges to be less rigid.
Our experts’ biggest pet peeve with the program is the color-coded food system they utilize based on foods’ caloric density. Noom claims that the colors do not denote good foods or bad foods but serve as more of a portion guide. Our experts say that for most people, it can be very difficult to not associate green foods with “good” foods and yellow and red foods with “bad” foods. This can lead to poor food relationships and associations for some, so it’s an important factor to be aware of before starting the program.
In addition, some of the food color categorizations didn’t make sense to our registered dietitians. Items like quinoa and eggs are listed as yellow foods, while ultra-processed non-fat cheeses were rated as green. Although green foods are lower in calories, they may not be the most holistically healthy, which is far more important than any number on the scale. Vilifying some of the world’s healthiest foods — like avocados, chickpeas, almonds and chia seeds (noted as red on Noom’s system) — isn’t a sustainable method to better health in our nutritionists’ eyes.
But to Noom’s credit, they give you a reasonable allowance for each color-coded group and specifically say that most of your diet won’t be green foods and that’s okay. We also found that the meal-tracking system took a little getting used to.
The $60 per month minimum is pretty pricey for a weight-loss app, and one of the primary complaints online is whether or not the app is “worth it.” In comparison, WW (formerly Weight Watchers) has different program options, with their top-tier program offering personal coaching and digital capabilities and costing around the same amount. Other health apps (like MyFitnessPal) provide similar food tracking capabilities designed for healthier habit formation free of charge. In fact, recent Duke University research focused on free apps for people to track their progress indicated that there might not be a difference in results whether or not you pay for a service.
And if you need more structure like a specifically curated meal plan, Noom may not be ideal for you. While Noom provides you with metrics and recipes for guidance, it doesn’t necessarily curate a customized meal plan. This does provide flexibility with making your own daily menu and coming up with meals throughout the week, but some individuals work better with a more structured approach so it all depends on your personal preference. And, of course, before starting any new weight-loss or physical-activity program, you should always consult your physician.
Does Noom actually work?
Since Noom does encourage habit formation and there are some real, substantial benefits to the behavior-change-for-life systems used to help guide you, it might be worth starting with the trial period.
That said, your success on Noom will ultimately depend on how consistently you follow the program, utilize their coaches and engage with their daily content. If for any reason you feel as though the app’s content or coaching platforms trigger feelings of shame or unworthiness, it’s time to unsubscribe. Same thing goes if you find that the color-coded system leads to poor food associations and anything other than moderation and balanced eating.
Using apps for accountability may be helpful for some people, though that doesn’t guarantee it will universally work for everyone — especially since achieving better health and weight loss is highly dependent on your personal taste and goals. Knowing what works for you versus what seemingly works for everyone else can be tricky to navigate on a platform you’re paying for. Better health and weight loss require you to be in the driver’s seat about the changes you make — within the framework of your own personal boundaries, be they emotional, physical or psychological. Remember that, and you’re already on the right path to better health for life.
Nutrition Lab Deputy Director
Stefani (she/her) is a registered dietitian, a NASM-certified personal trainer and the deputy director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab, where she handles all nutrition- and fitness-related content, testing and evaluation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from NYU. Stefani is dedicated to providing readers with evidence-based content to encourage informed food choices and healthy living. She is an avid CrossFitter and a passionate home cook who loves spending time with her big fit Greek family.
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