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The Noom paradox

The Noom paradox


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Noom - a diet app

Noom - a diet app

Noom is a buzzy weight loss app targeted at young people.

Noom helps you learn how to get in touch with your body and teach yourself not to crave foods that don’t nourish you. Noom's key differentiator is applying psychology to achieve long-term weight loss. But critics say Noom is a deceptive gateway to disordered eating at worst.


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The diet culture war

The diet culture war

The fight between Noom and its critics is part of a larger cultural war of the last decade over how we should think about food, weight, bodies, and health.

On one side is the traditional diet culture which holds that weight is a crucial indicator of health. The idea is that if you simply wield a little willpower and use more calories than you take in, you will lose weight.

On the other side are the rising anti-diet movements. They hold that the correlation between weight and health is not straightforward and that most diets don't last and damage your metabolism in the long run.


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Critics insist that Noom is just another diet app

Critics insist that Noom is just another diet app

Noom celebrates No Diet Day on Instagram but in practice, it works like a classic low-calorie diet.

After registering, users are asked to set a goal weight and decide how quickly they want to lose weight. Noom will generate a daily calorie budget that users are expected to follow, and it instructs users to log their food.

Noom philosophy stated that no foods are off-limits, but it does give users a way to classify their foods. Green foods in large quantities, yellow foods in moderation, and red foods such as desserts and chips are limited.


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The anti-diet movement has been around since the 1960’s

At the centre of the anti-diet movement are two scientific claims.

  1. The relationship between weight and overall health is unclear. It’s possible to be a healthy fat person and an unhealthy thin person.
  2. Dieters end up gaining back all the weight they lost.

The data on the first claim shows it to be mostly true. A 2014 meta-analysis showed that 6 % - 75 % of those classified as obese were “metabolically healthy.” 

Studies on the second claim show that it is very rare for dieters to lose weight and maintain that weight loss.


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The downsides of diets

The downsides of diets

Anti-dieters argue that dieting can damage the very bodies it promises to heal.

  • Dieting slows the metabolism.
  • Frequent dieting is associated with higher mortality rates and increase the risk of death by heart disease in people with coronary artery disease.
  • It can damage the mind. Frequent dieting is associated with high rates of depression.
  • Dieters can become overwhelmingly fixated on food.
  • The boundaries between dieting and eating disorders can become interchanged.


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New ways of thinking about food

  • Mindful eating is paying close attention to the food you eat and your body’s response to it.
  • Intuitive eating is the practice of rejecting all food rules and allowing your body to guide your eating. 
  • Health at Every Size is the movement that argues that it’s possible to live a healthy life no matter what your weight is.


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