Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Noom – Nothing New, Everything Harmful

Noom same diet industry lies new nameI’ve been seeing adds for Noom all over social media for quite a while now. They claim to be a new way to lose weight that can help you keep the weight off for life.

First of all, their commercials are chock full of diet advice that is as old as the hills and has no research to back it as actually creating . (“Eat grapes instead of raisins, drink wine instead of beer, drink a glass of water if you’re hungry, blah blah blah) a lot of the program seems to be based on the old “eat watery, fibery, bulky food so you’ll feel fuller” advice that doesn’t work because your body is a sophisticated piece of machinery and not a lawnmower.

Moreover, how can they claim to be brand new, while also claiming that they can help you keep weight off for life? That claim would have to be backed by some serious long-term research in order to be credible. I asked them for the research – I asked in e-mail, through their website contact, and on social media – including one memorable thread that had 758 comments, to which they replied directly to 757. Guess whose comment did not receive a response?

Noom No Answer
Text: Ragen Chastain: I’ve made several requests for the research to back up the claim that weight loss is maintained long-term, but haven’t received anything back. Noom, can you please help me get this information? Thanks in advance!

Spoiler Alert – they could not help me find that information because it doesn’t exist, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

I asked folks on social media to share their experiences and they were truly terrible. Especially for people who chose the option “get fit for good” (rather than “lose weight for good”) because they believed it to be a wellness program, only to be given extremely low-calorie diets, and eating disorder triggers from food moralization to being asked to literally pledge to weigh themselves every single day.

I decided to try their sign up process for myself. The first thing I found was that whether I clicked “Get Fit For Good” or “Lose Weight For Good” I was sent to the exact same process. Pretty disingenuous if you ask me, and another example of companies co-opting anti-diet language to sell diets.

As I went through the demographic questions, I was sad to see that this “modern” weight loss company only gave gender options for “Male” and “Female” completely erasing the existence of non-binary people.

I gave my starting height and weight as 5’3, 300 pounds. I gave my goal weight as 75 pounds as a test –  hoping against hope that it would send up a red flag and recommend some kind of counseling. Instead, I got a page that said “You entered 75lb(s) for your ideal weight. This is your goal weight, not the amount of weight you’d like to lose. Would you like to edit your response?” I hit “confirm” and Noom moved me on through its process with no problem.

They showed me a slide that claimed that a study showed that 78% of users in 2016 had “sustained” weight loss over 9 months. It included a graph showing Noom performing better than “restrictive diet”  though of course they never give any indication what “restrictive diet” means (and considering some of the people I heard from were given “plans” from Noom that included only 1,000 calories a day I can’t imagine what they would define as “restrictive.”)

There is also the fact that the research shows most people can sustain weight loss for 9 months, but the vast majority gain it back (many gaining back more than they lost) over the next 2-5 years. I would imagine the reason that they are still touting less than 80% of people managing to lose weight for 9 months in 2016 (rather than, say having followed people until now,) is that all those people are having the exact same experience of every other dieter – losing weight short term and gaining it back long-term.

Try this. Work really hard for the next 9 months, then slack off until 2024. Then ask your job if they will give you a promotion based on those 9 months that you actually worked. Let me know how it goes.

But here is the blue ribbon loser question:

“Women in their 40’s who want to reach an ideal weight between 65 lbs and 85 lbs need a slightly different strategy depending on their current lifestyle. Which best describes you?”

I can best be described as slipping into a rage coma Noom, thanks for asking.  Newsflash Noom: women in their 40’s who want to reach an ideal weight between 65 lbs and 85 lbs need a VERY different strategy than a weight loss diet!

Of course I didn’t sign up (the last thing I’m going to do is give them money,) and I thought it was done. Then, a few days later I received an e-mail, reminding me that:

From the information you provided, we’ve put together a custom course that will help you reach your goal weight of 75 lbs by June.

You read that right, Noom has put together a plan that will “help” me to lose 225 pounds in (checks calendar) 4 months. Yes, this definitely sounds legitimate and safe.

As far as I can tell, there’s literally nothing new about Noom, it’s the same useless-at-best, dangerous-at-worst shit, different name. Here’s the story in pictures:

My answers to Noom's question about my height/weight 5'3, 300lbs
You entered 75lb(s) for your ideal weight. This is your goal weight, not the amount of weight you'd like to lose. Would you like to edit your response?
I was really hoping that telling them that my goal weight was 75 pounds would throw up all kinds of red flags. Sadly, they were fine with it.
"Women in their 40's who want to reach an ideal weight between 65 lbs and 85 lbs need a slightly different strategy depending on their current lifestyle. Which best describes you?" 
Newsflash Noom – women in their 40’s who want to reach an ideal weight between 65 and 85 pounds need a VERY different strategy than being encouraged to diet.
A graph claiming "Noom creates long term results through habit and behavior change, not restrictive dieting. " with an asterisk that leads to the statement "78* of Noom users sustained weight loss over 9 months in a 2016 study (Nature Research - 35,921 participants)
Try this – ask your job if you can get a promotion based on those 9 months that you worked really hard four years ago, even though you’ve done nothing but surf facebook since them. Let me know how it goes.
Hi there, My name is Jessica and I’m a curriculum writer at Noom. I just dropped our fee so you could try Noom for free! From the information you provided, we've put together a custom course that will help you reach your goal weight of 75 lbs by June. The biggest reason Noom works is because of its psychology based approach to weight loss that's customized to help you meet your goals. Your course gives you personalized feedback to help you build better habits that stick in the long run. Claim your free trial here to work with our team of experts. I'm excited for you to start your health and wellness journey with Noom! It’s our most effective program yet, with people similar to you losing an average of 18 lbs in the first 4 months. Cheers! Coach Jessica "I've lost 20 pounds to date and I think Noom is going to change my life forever." -Shannon | March 2018 *Typical Noom user can expect to lose 1-2lbs per week. Reuslts may vary.* Noom: 229 W 28th St, 9th Floor, New York NY 10001 USA No longer want to receive my emails? Unsubscribe
Noom e-mail telling me that they have developed a custom course to help me lose 225 pounds in four months.

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