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The answer could be as simple as an app on your smartphone with the Noom diet.
With more than 5,905 calories consumed by the average Brit on Christmas Day alone, it’s no wonder January is the time most of us want to slim. Step forward, the Noom diet. Not only was it the most Googled diet in 2018, but it’s been tried by more than 45 million people worldwide. Wondering if it could work for you?
Before you pay out around £40 per month (for an average of four months) for the privilege, here’s everything you need to know…
What is the Noom diet?
Even if you’re not sure what the Noom diet is, you’ve probably seen adverts for it popping up on social media. Accessed by a subscription service via the Noom app, the diet is designed to help you lose weight and keep it off long-term by counting calories and tracking your fitness, food, blood pressure and blood sugar.
“Noom is an app that aims to help you achieve lifestyle changes surrounding diet and exercise,” says Dr Diana Gall from iMeds. “It isn’t a universal or “one size fits all” diet, but it personalises your calorie budget based on your age, current weight, height, activity levels, and other health and lifestyle factors.”
How does the Noom diet work?
Before you sign up, you have to answer some simple questions about your weight and how much you want to lose, and then the computer’s algorithm will work out your weightloss goal and a weekly plan on how to achieve it.
“Essentially, Noom combines a calorie budget alongside information on which foods you should aim to eat more of, and which to eat less of,” explains Dr Gall. “Noom’s plans are non-restrictive, meaning that no foods are off limits, but it works to reinforce healthy eating habits by using a traffic light system. Foods classified as “green” foods are the ones that should make up the most of your diet, and have a low calorie density, such as fruits, vegetables, fat-free dairy options and some grains. Yellow foods are ones that should be eaten moderately, such as lean meats and fish, while red foods are the ones with a high calorie density and the least nutritional value, so should only be eaten sparingly.”
The app even offers access to a “health coach” so you can ask direct questions (such as what to pick for dinner in a restaurant) when you’re feeling stuck.
Why could the Noom diet work for you?
Seeing as most of us carry our phones everywhere, it’s easy to track what you’re eating – in fact, you’ll probably only need to spend around 5-10 minutes a day on the app filling in your progress. Forgotten to add something in? Your health coach will prompt you to help you stay on track.
“Keeping a food diary can be incredibly helpful if you’re trying to lose weight,” says Dr Gall. “Being able to see what you’re eating on a daily basis can help you to identify positive and negative eating habits, and can make you more aware of the calories that you consume. You may even be less likely to snack on foods with a high-calorie density as you’ll know that you need to record it, so you might opt for healthier snacks instead.”
And looking at the #NoomNerds hashtag on social media, results have been impressive, with a study claiming that out of 36,000 Noom users, 77.9 per cent reported weight loss.
The downsides of the Noom diet
Losing weight is really down to the individual, as the Noom app doesn’t go shopping for you or cook for you (although it does have plenty of recipes to pick from). If you don’t stick to the calorie limit, you won’t lose weight.
Plus, a lot of nutritional information is lacking on the app (it’s mainly just about calories). “For most people, sticking to a calorie budget can be enough to lose weight, but it’s also important to know how much of each food group you should be consuming,” says Dr Gall. “For example, you may lose more weight by eating more protein and fibre than carbohydrates and fats, but by only counting calories, you might not know the actual nutritional value of the food you consume. The traffic light system that Noom offers is helpful for this, but it would also help you to know the nutritional value of each meal and snack that you record so you know if you need to increase or decrease certain food groups.”
Users leaving online reviews complain about the “teen speak” and amount of advice given in “quiz form”, which can grate after a while. There’s also been some confusion over how to cancel the subscription (just deleting the app won’t work). But the main issues with the Noom diet seems to be with the scripted answers the so-called “personalised” health coach will give you. This is because the advice is from a computer algorithm, not a real person.
“Technology is fantastic, and some AI can be incredibly advanced, but qualified healthcare professionals still have their place, especially if you’re struggling to lose weight,” says Dr Gall. “The app may be enough for some people to reach their goals, but if you struggle with your weight or have any questions about nutrition or diet, these are best directed towards a healthcare professional – preferably someone with experience in diet and nutrition.”
Is it worth a try?
If you have the money to spare and like a trend, then give it a go, but it’s not your only option if money is tight at this time of year.
“There are free options available,” says Dr Gall. “If you’re struggling on your own, you can always make an appointment to see your doctor to discuss your concerns and difficulties. You may be referred to a nutritionist or dietician for advice. You can still create a record of your eating habits by using free apps, or just by writing your meals and snacks in a diary. The advantage to this is that you may have regular appointments to check your progress, so your doctor can intervene if they think there could be a problem.”
One of the benefits users of the Noom app seem to universally rate is the group chats they can join in with. Which is no wonder, seeing as new research by WW found a third of people think they will give up their diet sooner without someone to support them along their journey.
“Online communities are fantastic for people that are wanting to lose weight, as you’re all there to achieve the same goal. They’re a great place to share tips and motivational stories, as well as having somewhere to vent if you’re struggling to people that understand what you’re going through,” says Dr Gall.
“There are several places online that you might find support groups, such as various social media sites or forums. You might find that they help you keep on track or stay inspired with all of the ideas and tips that are posted. It works in a similar way to slimming groups such as Slimming World or Weight Watchers, where group support is a big focus of the meetings, though online communities can be accessed at any time.”