You may have seen the ads on TV spruiking a revolutionary weight loss program known as Noom.
Noom is a subscription-based weight loss program and claims to shift the focus on weight loss from rigid dieting and calorie counting to a holistic lifestyle approach, utilising psychological tools to support behavioural change.
With plenty of testimonials to support its use, Noom has taken the weight loss world by storm, or so it seems.
So what is this program, is it all that it is cracked up to be and is it helpful for Australians? We take a closer look at Noom and the functionality the application offers.
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Marketed as the 'last weight loss program you will need', Noom is a mobile-based weight loss program that helps users implement a low-calorie, nutrient-dense eating plan with the help of virtual 'coaches' to support you in reaching your weight loss goals.
With a monthly subscription fee, users have access to the Noom data base, which classifies foods into high-, medium- and low-calorie options using a traffic light system, and encourages the Volumetric's approach, in which low-energy-density foods or green foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables are encouraged over more higher fat and calorie foods or red foods. The program is low calorie (roughly 1100-1200 calories per day),which easily explains its reported weight losses of -1kg each week.
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While the Volumetrics approach is a safe and effective approach to weight loss, it does fail to consider the nutritional benefits associated with nutrient-rich but energy-dense foods such as nuts, good oils, and avocado.
These higher fat foods are classified as red foods on the program, and as such advised to be consumed sparingly in the diet. This is a relatively old-school approach to nutrition and weight loss, with more recent recommendations pointing to the importance of including good fats in the diet to help optimise nutrient intake and support blood glucose control and fullness in between meals.
Along with basic dietary advice, users are supported by online coaches and can track food, activity and weight loss progress using the tools applications. There are also lots of tips, tools and quizzes for those seeking more health, diet and exercise related information.
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While the specific selling point of Noom is that its focus is on building sustainable lifestyle habits to support weight control via the ongoing support of health coaches, these coaches are somewhat elusive.
As opposed to an actual person sitting there ready to answer your questions and offering support, the coaches appear to be automated replies generated in response to word cues that come from user questions. As such responses, tips and motivational quotes are somewhat generic and almost patronising.
Most significant to my experience was that the response time to enquire in a virtual sense was significant and extremely frustrating. In researching this piece, it took several attempts to make direct contact with someone at Noom and even when the response came it was a general directive back to the site, rather than a personalised response. Anyone who is focused on weight loss will know the enormous difference between individualised advice that comes from a human being, and that generalised by autobots. They're not the same thing.
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Most important to know is that when you're offered advice from a Noom coach, it's not advice from a qualified professional such as a psychologist, dietitian or exercise specialist. As such, it tends to be generalised and may or may not prove overly useful to an individual.
Another significant frustration when trying the program is that it's not easy to see exactly how much a subscription will cost. At first users are offered a trial period for which they can pay what they deem suitable followed by ongoing subscriptions at different price points, ranging from $60 a month to $199 for a year. While this is not overly expensive compared to one-on-one weight loss appointments with a professional, for any subscription to be worthwhile you need to utilise the functionality of the app to reap all the potential benefits, and the time this takes is not insignificant. For those who are already busy, or not overly apt at using mobile devices, this is a potential barrier to getting the most out of the program.
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Overall Noom is a reasonable online weight loss program. It has research to support its effectiveness, is not overly expensive and may offer a number of mobile tools that support you in building healthy habits long term that support weight control. But if you think you are paying for your own personal dietitian or diet coach, you will be disappointed, especially if you expect a decent answer to a real-life question with any urgency.
Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.
Love your toast? All the healthier (and lower cal) toast alternatives, ranked by calories
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