NaBloPoMo – Day 18 – Noom

First off, I’d just like to say that this isn’t a sponsored post or anything. I just like this app and wanted to blog about it.

Back in the early pandemic (circa March to June), I gained some weight, thanks to losing all my physical activity (hockey suspended, gym shut down, daily minimum of 7,500 steps just from walking to and from Skytrain stations on my commute) and stocking my home with comfort foods (pandemic chips, I’m looking in your direction) and doing comfort baking. I’m not sure the exact amount I gained as a result of those early pandemic days, since I don’t know exactly what I weighed before the pandemic restrictions started, but it was somewhere in the vicinity of 10-15 lbs. Which is a lot on a 5 ft tall frame. And a lot in such a short time frame (~3 months). Once it became apparent that this pandemic thing was not a passing fad, but going to be an ongoing concern for the foreseeable future, I decided that perhaps I should do something about the situation, as I didn’t think it was particularly good for my health and I did not enjoy looking at my face on the endless Zoom meetings I was now doing). Enter Noom.

Noom advertises itself as a weight loss app, but honestly, it’s more like a daily dose of therapy that also helps you to be more mindful of your eating and activity… not to mention stress and sleep and you know, overall health and well-being.

Having a PhD in nutrition means I haven’t really learned anything about nutrition from the app (nor would I have expected to). I knew all the nutrition things before – what I needed was some help putting knowledge into action. And Noom has helped me do that.

I really like the way that the app uses psychology to help you change your behaviour. It’s working with your brain, instead of trying to fight against it. It gives you about 10 minutes of lessons per day – and it won’t let you speed through all the lessons, so you have to sit with what you’ve learned on a given day and that gives you time for it to sink in. And if you don’t do all the lessons on a day, that’s OK – you just pick up where you left off the next day. It gives you just enough things to do that you can make progress, but you have time to really learn and practice things without getting overwhelmed.

It’s helping you build skills towards a sustainable lifestyle, not telling you to do unsustainable things to drop a bunch of weight fast only to gain it right back when you no longer follow their crazy diet.

I also like that it gave me a structure to follow. I’m really good at following directions when I believe that the instructions/instructor is sensible – especially if it means I don’t have to make a decision about something (or at least if it makes it really easy for me to make a decision). Decision fatigue is an ever present part of my life.

You do things like weigh yourself everyday and log what you eat. But they are very clear that the number on the scale is just one measurement – and it is expected to vary day-by-day based on all kinds of things (like how hydrated you are, for example), so the point is not to freak out if the number on the scale goes up one day – but to look at overall trends and also to consider it along with all kinds of other measures, like how your clothes fit, or feeling like you have more energy, or more muscle tone, or you can walk up a flight of stairs without feeling winded when you could’t do that last week. The measures you can use are endless – and everyone is different. Logging what you eat helps you become more aware of what you are eating and where your calories are coming from, but also what makes you feel more full or more satisfied. These things give you structure, but they do make a point of putting them in perspective so that they don’t become bigger than they are.

There’s also a support group aspect to it – some people in the group post a lot, whereas I’m less into that aspect of it. I read most of the posting and occasionally post a question or a comment myself, but I’d say this is the aspect of the app that I’m not overly invested in (YMMV). Oh yeah, and there’s an individual “goal specialist” that you are assigned at the start – I’m not 100% convinced that it isn’t a bot. But I’ve not found that part particularly useful, so I mostly don’t bother with it.

Spoiler alert: If you are planning to try the app and want to follow the process without skipping ahead to stuff that’s meant to be revealed later, don’t read the next two paragraphs.

I’ve read the book Intuitive Eating before. Heck, I’ve even blogged about it. And I’ve dabbled in doing it and definitely think I became a more mindful eater after having read that book. But I’ve never gotten to the point where I could say that I’m truly eating intuitively. Well, as it turns out, the Noom app is working you towards that. Logging your meals is a good way to help you become more aware of what you are eating and can help set you on path towards achieving the weight you want, but it’s not a sustainable way to live your life forever. It’s an example of “what got your here is not what will get your there.” At some point, after the therapy that is this app and after learning the psych tricks along the way, you are supposed to be able to listen to your body and it will tell you what you need. And it will even out – you might eat more today but then not be as hungry tomorrow. You will find movement that brings you joy rather than feeling like you “have to” do a certain exercise to “earn” the calories for that treat you want. And you also might gain some perspective and be happy in the body you have at a different weight than the weight you thought you wanted to achieve at the start of your journey.

All of that sounds amazing to me and I have to say – I’m not there yet. When the app introduced the notion of intuitive eating, it gave me a task to not use the app for the entire day. No logging food, no lessons, no support group – just go about your day and see how it feels. I found it very unnerving! I like the structure of knowing how many calories I’d eaten and how many I had in my calorie budget for the day and then acting accordingly. I’m not ready yet to trust my body to tell me what to do. I have 43 years of habits that I’m trying to overcome – and that’s OK. Later on I got that same task again – and it was a little more comfortable that time. Baby steps. I’ve started to be able to pay attention to my body telling me what I need – and if I go over my calorie budget one day, the next day I do feel satisfied with less than my calorie budget – it is evening itself out!

When I started the app, I set an initial goal weight of 144 lbs – and I was 155 lbs at the time. I wanted to start with a reasonable goal and see how that went. And here it is just over 4 months later and and I’m down to 144 lbs.

Noom

I’m reasonably sure that I’ve lost more than 11 lbs of fat though, as my gym re-opened in June and I was just starting to regain some of my lost muscle mass from having not been able to lift weights while gyms were shut down, and since muscle weights more than fat, I’m sure that I’ve gained muscle while losing fat (another good reason why the number on the scale is not the be-all and end-all).

I will say that this app is not cheap (though it’s definitely cheaper than going to therapy!) and does require some commitment. But it’s been working for me, and I’m happy that it actually focuses on overall health and well-being, which I didn’t realize it would when I started.

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