Noom Diet in Disguise

How NOOM Is Just a Diet in Disguise

September 19, 2022

“It’s not a diet!” That’s what the ads claim, yet plenty of Noom-curious dieters argue the opposite. Designed to help you lose weight without committing to a diet, Noom has plenty of weight logs, calorie counters, and coaching lessons that suggest this fancy app is just a diet in disguise.

What is Noom?

Noom is a weight loss app that touts itself on using psychology, technology and personalized coaching to help individuals “lose weight for good.” Individuals sign up for the program and download the app on a smartphone. They then rely on the app to log meals, track steps, calculate weight loss goals, and receive daily lessons that are designed to promote healthier eating.

What’s different about Noom is that – though this is clearly a weight loss program – it loudly distinguishes itself by claiming not to be a diet. Of course, this is appealing – it’s meant to be! After all, people who have tried and failed with other diets usually breathe a sigh of relief at the thought of losing weight without committing to strict rules and restrictions.

Don’t be fooled. Noom uses this distinction to set itself apart within the health and wellness industry. It also creates this feeling that Noom psychology offers an almighty, higher-than-thou approach to weight loss. It’s a marketing tactic – and a good one, at that! But once you dive deeper into the app’s features, it looks awfully a lot like a diet in disguise.

Noom *Supposedly* Relies on Psychology and Behavioral Science

The heavy presence of psychology is the cloak that perhaps hides all the obvious dieting tactics of the Noom app. Daily lessons based in cognitive behavioral science are geared towards changing your attitude and approach to food. These lessons are not mandatory, and they can be skipped to reach the calorie tracker, meal log, and weight loss calculator.

Psychology is great! And setting new habits with behavioral training can be a fantastic approach to long-term change. But even psychologists critique the Noom app as a diet hiding behind the glitz and glamour of psychological principles.

Noom’s Diet in Disguise Hidden Tactics

The bulk of Noom is fairly blatant about being a diet. Here are a few of the app’s features that are characteristic of classic dieting programs.

  • Total daily calorie goals are set extremely low – much lower than the average adult requires to fulfill nutritional needs.
    How low? Toddler-level low. Not only is this an obvious dieting tactic, but it’s also a dangerous one. The app calculates total daily calorie goal by asking your age, height, weight and general activity level – but does not take into consideration other important factors, like recovery from eating disorders, muscle mass, recent surgeries, other conditions/ailments/body limitations, prescriptions you’re taking, or whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Foods are logged and labeled using the stoplight method.
    Noom has a food log where you list everything you eat in a meal. It then assigns a color-coded label (green, yellow, or red) to each item. As you can probably guess, green items are encouraged, yellow suggests practicing moderation, and red warns against eating too much. Labeling foods in this way can create emotional or stress-laden decisions when it comes to meal prep – a classic condition of dieting.
  • You may receive a warning sign about certain foods.
    Technically, there are no food items that are strictly banned from the Noom diet. This is one of the points that Noom fans use to argue it’s not a diet at all. Their website even says they “don’t believe in ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods.” However, getting a warning sign for certain food items is about as close as you can get to limiting food choices without an explicit ‘off-limits’ label. Passive-aggressive? A bit!

Lingo that Tries to Trick You into Believing the Hype

How can so many people fall for the idea that Noom is wildly different from other diet trends? Noom has extremely effective rhetoric that suggests all the right things, or rather suggests an approach to weight loss that feels healthier than other diets. For example, their website has phrases that sound really legit. Here are a few examples:

  • “wisdom and power of behavioral psychology”
  • “better understand your relationship with food”
  • “be more mindful of your habits”
  • “progress over perfection”

A lot of these phrases suggest a softer, more self-aware approach to weight loss that’s rooted in mental and emotional wellbeing rather than being strict with your body. We want to believe it – and some of us do.

The Silver Lining: Recognizing a Relationship with Food

While it’s pretty clear that Noom is just a diet in disguise, the program’s approach to weight loss does have a silver lining, which is highlighting the importance of developing a positive, nourishing relationship with food. Does Noom do that in the right way? Maybe not. But at least spreading awareness about intuitive eating and the important role of mindset is present in the Noom app – and that idea is certainly on the right track.

Dr. Candice Seti, Psy.D., of Me Only Better is known in the community as "The Weight Loss Therapist."

Noom Diet in Disguise
Candice Seti


Dr. Candice Seti, Psy.D., of Me Only Better is known in the community as "The Weight Loss Therapist." Dr. Seti is renowned for her expertise in applying cognitive therapy to weight loss and weight management and extensive knowledge of nutrition and exercise applications to a weight management program. This is an area Dr. Seti has been passionate about for many years after her own weight loss experience. Read more articles by Dr. Seti!