Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice. This article is the opinion of the writer(s) and quoted dietitians, and is presented for informational purposes only. We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to weight loss and eating disorders.
Noom is arguably the most popular weight loss app. The app provides personalized advice, one-on-one training and diet tracking, and is backed by legitimate medical research.
But whether a dieting app is likely to work depends a lot on the individual, so we asked 7 licensed dietitians to give their take on Noom. Here are some of the most interesting takeaways.
Unsustainably Low Calorie Limits
Dietitian Caitlin Mudd doesn’t believe that Noom is sustainable long-term because of the “very low” calorie limits.
Caitlin notes that the calorie limits are “usually around 1200 calories, which is not enough for an adult's energy needs.”
Given that average caloric maintenance levels are at or over 2,000 calories for both adult men and women, and likely even higher for overweight adults, this advice seems sound.
When people trying to lose weight restrict calories too much, they can suffer from cravings that lead to binging which counteracts any short-term benefit. “It is these exact requirements that research has shown to lead to food preoccupation, more cravings for food, overeating and binge eating,” says Caitlin.
Dietitian Britt Bailey says that she’s worked personally with clients who experienced metabolic issues due to Noom’s low calorie limits: “I've had to help many clients recover from drastic calorie ranges that were suggested by Noom. They were left with metabolic imbalances and excessive weight gain.”
The takeaway here for dieters is that more moderate reductions in calories seems to be the best long-term sustainable approach.
Some Healthy Foods Are Disallowed
Noom grades foods on a rating system: foods with a “green” rating have no daily calorie allotment, while “yellow” and “red” foods do. But some dietitians we spoke with suggested that this rating system is unscientific and illogical, because it disincentivizes people from eating otherwise healthy foods.
Veronica Rouse RD provides an example of two healthy foods that are given a “yellow” rating by Noom:
“For example, one way to reduce cholesterol levels is to include vegetarian protein (like tofu and beans) more often. These foods are rich in soluble fiber, low in saturated fat, high in protein and a good source of vitamins and minerals. However, these foods are classified as yellow in Noom, and therefore may be eaten less often or viewed as less healthy based on this rating.”
Dietitian Lauren Slayon agrees and shares two other healthy foods that are “red” on Noom: “nuts and avocado are ‘red’ foods and this is based on calorie density. Sadly, for a relatively recently developed platform this is outdated reasoning. What about satiety? Glucose response? Longevity? Discouraging these foods is worrisome.”
Eating a wide variety of whole foods at a moderate caloric deficit, and not arbitrarily cutting any out, appears to be the best approach for dieters.
Noom Health Coaches Aren’t Necessarily Medical Experts
Surprisingly to us, Noom doesn’t seem to require that their “Health Coaches” have medical credentials like RD or MD. This makes their authority to provide research-based health advice questionable in our opinion. Most dietitians we spoke to agreed.
Sydney Nitzkorski RD made it clear that consumers would be better off seeking weight loss advice from a credentialed source: “Graduating from 4 weeks of ‘noomiversity’ is not the same as the 2-3 years required to become an RD.”
Veronica Rouse RD disagrees and states that although Noom Health Coaches aren’t required to be doctors or RDs, they do have some relevant expertise and experience, and are better-credentialed than the average weight loss app coach:
“Their coaches need to complete coach training through Noom. This training is recognized by an organization (International Consortium for Health and Wellness Training) that trains other health coaches. These coaches also need to have a degree in a related area like nutrition or coaching and have 2000 hours of experience . This is better than most weight loss programs.”
While getting health advice from a coach with a relevant degree and experience is definitely better than getting health advice from someone without, we would recommend that people seeking long-term weight loss work only with an RD or MD, as they will have completed thousands of hours more specific training.
Noom’s Restrictive Diet May Trigger Eating Disorder
Adhering to a rigid diet may be unsafe for certain people. “Noom is not safe for individuals who are at risk or have experienced disordered eating,” says Veronica.
Because of the constant need for food categorization and negative associations with certain foods, she believes using the app could cause “long term physical and emotional health issues.”
Sydney agrees, and explains that while she believes Noom is safe for most people, “I do not recommend it for those with more serious and sensitive medical conditions such as eating disorders.”
Individuals struggling with an eating disorder, or who have past disordered eating habits, may benefit from a more individualized approach. We would recommend that these patients seek expert counseling from an RD with experience working with such patients.
Veronica also brings up a great point about how Noom could improve the user experience of their app to mitigate this risk:
“When signing up for Noom they ask each participant a few health questions, but the initial questionnaire does not assess if individuals are at risk for disordered eating or have a history of disordered eating.”
If Noom would add this screening filter to their intake form, they could potentially improve the health and safety of users with eating disorders. They could refer such patients to specialists, or even offer them a separate service with qualified RDs. We agree with the dietitians quoted that Noom should make more of an effort in this regard, and that it’s unsafe for them to continue to recommend their app to patients with eating disorders.
Is Noom Worth The Money?
Noom pricing depends on the plan, but according to their site a one-month plan is $60. Plenty of people would be happy to pay that much for guaranteed weight loss, but some of the dietitians we spoke with believe you can get the same value for free.
Christine Byrne RD recommends using free tracking tools over Noom, because she doesn’t believe the app provides significant value justifying the price: “There are plenty of free food and calorie trackers out there, and the ‘lessons’ are made up of information that you can find for free online.”
Dietitian Noah Quezada recommends a few other free online tracking tools over Noom: “No, Noom is a fancy calorie tracking app. You can find a similar one for free like MyFitnessPal or Cronometer.”
Some RDs do believe the pricing is fair. “Noom is an non personalized app that provides you access to a coach with daily checklists for a reasonable price,” says Veronica.
In our opinion, Noom is fairly priced given that it provides 1-on-1 coaching. We don’t believe it will provide as much value or expertise as working with an RD, but it’s also priced lower.