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Weight loss can be challenging, to say the least. It takes discipline and motivation to reach your goals. And while your health is more than a number on the scale, there are times that you might find that you want to lose a few pounds to feel your best. You already know it’s not worth trying those crazy crash diets, juice cleanses, and pills. But a better and healthier approach to weight loss is something more sustainable. That’s where WW (formerly Weight Watchers) and Noom come in.

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What are WW (formerly Weight Watchers) and Noom?

WW (or Weight Watchers, as it was formerly known) uses a food point system that is personalized based on your age, weight, height, and sex to help you lose weight in a healthy way. You track everything you eat and drink, as well as your workouts, on the app or website. The company’s been around for 56 years, though it rebranded as WW in 2018 to target a younger demographic and to convey that it’s a lifestyle change, rather than a diet.

Noom is similar, in that it is also a food-tracking platform. Solely app-based, Noom helps you track your weight and monitor what you eat and when you work out. Like WW, it encourages you to eat in moderation and focus on plants. While WW gives every food a point value, Noom assigns colors to foods to make it easy to eat more healthy foods and avoid less nutritionally-sound ones. The biggest difference is that Noom focuses on the psychological aspects of weight management, teeing up articles and quizzes in the forms of daily “tasks” designed to get you to think about food and fitness differently.

What do WW and Noom cost?

With WW, there are a few plans you can choose from. For each, you pay by the week with at least one month of commitment required—after all, healthy weight loss doesn’t happen overnight (unfortunately).

  • The Digital plan, which costs $3.07 per week (or about $12 to $15 a month), gives you access to the app and website. From there, you get food and fitness tracking, access to recipes and fitness guides, and a social platform where you can interact with other members and share your successes or frustrations.
  • The Workshop + Digital plan ($6.92 per week, or about $28 to $35 a month) gives you that same digital access, plus in-person coaching sessions or “workshops” with other local members (the famous meetings that were Weight Watchers’ hallmark before the rebranding).
  • The Personal Coaching + Digital plan ($12.69 per week, or about $50 to $64 a month) gives you digital access and a weekly phone call with a WW coach instead of meetings. With all plans, you have access to a digital coach—in other words, an online chat function—if something comes up and you need to ask a question.

Noom only has one basic plan. You start with a free two-week introductory period, which requires that you enter your credit card, and if you opt to continue, costs $150 for a six-month subscription. While that works out to $25 per month, you’ll have to pay that $150 up front—and if you cancel any time after you’ve been charged, the service will cut off immediately and you’ll be out $150 with no prorated refund. After six months, the plan automatically renews unless you cancel in time. Therefore, setting a calendar reminder to cancel—either at the end of the two weeks or at the end of six months—is crucial if that’s your intention.

On top of the subscription charge, there are add-on options available such as a custom meal or workout plan. The prices for these range from $80 to $100.

How does the food logging on WW and Noom work?

WW allots you a specific number of “SmartPoints” each day. Every food and drink has a corresponding SmartPoint value, with the healthiest foods being freebies with no points at all—it’s basically calorie counting with less complicated math. In theory, if you consume the equivalent of your daily SmartPoints (or below that number), you should lose weight, which you also record once a week on the WW platform. Upon joining, you’ll take an assessment about your lifestyle, eating habits, goals, activity levels, and so on. These results will dictate the point budget you’ll be working with, as well as suggest to you one of three color-coded programs:

  • The Purple plan offers more than 300 zero-point foods, but gives you the lowest number of total daily points. If you’re on the Purple plan, you don’t have to track as much if you focus on consuming any of the 300 zero-point foods. However, it holds you accountable for anything that isn’t on the zero-point list, like cocktails or the occasional cheeseburger, and you have fewer total points to go around.
  • The Green plan gives you the fewest zero-point foods (a little over 100), but the highest number of daily points. With Green, you’re practically tracking every single thing you consume (or you’re eating a really boring diet), but you have more daily points to work with.
  • The Blue plan gives you more than 200 zero-point foods and a middle-of-the-road number of daily SmartPoints. It is best suited for someone who wants a mix of flexibility and guidance.

In general, foods that are zero points include most fruits and vegetables, eggs, lean proteins (chicken breasts, 99% lean ground turkey, most fish) and non-fat dairy. Zero-point drinks include things that have no sugar or fat, such as black coffee, black tea, water, and some diet beverages.

Noom, much like WW, aims to change your relationship with food, using a slightly different approach. In addition to the daily food logging, the Noom app provides motivation with about eight daily “tasks” you’re asked to complete. Most of these are short articles to read, usually about nutrition but often about psychological approaches—mindfulness, for instance—that reframe your outlook on dieting, or life in general. Instead of assigning point values to individual foods as WW does, Noom uses color codes in its program to classify foods into three categories, based on the caloric density:

  • Green foods are ones that you should include most in your diet. These are low-caloric-density foods such as vegetables, fruits, and other foods with high water content.
  • Red foods are the most calorie-dense, and include nuts, cheese, and other items that should be consumed sparingly.
  • Yellow foods fall in the middle—things like chicken, eggs, avocados—and should be consumed in moderation.

The idea is that you can eat a larger quantity of food that contains fewer calories per ounce (say, 100 calories of spinach, or an entire pound of the salad greens) than the same amount of higher-caloric-density foods (like 100 calories of Skittles, or a measly 25 of the tiny candies). As the lower caloric-density foods tend to contain more water and fiber, it’s likely that those foods will also keep you satiated for longer. And if you feel less hungry, you’ll be less likely to overindulge.

What happens if you go over your daily totals on WW and Noom?

It comes with the territory of weight loss that if you eat more than you should, you won’t lose weight or you may even gain. These programs both have proven track records, but each program is what you make of it. If you aren’t disciplined in your food decisions and tracking, you won’t see results. However, both WW and Noom make success more feasible by allowing for some flexibility, which is what many reviewers say is the key to what makes them work.

With WW, you’re given weekly points, or “weeklies” on top of your daily points. These can give you freedom to indulge. If you choose to go over your daily point budget on any given day, points are taken from your weekly points. Or, if you keep your dailies in check, you may save up those weeklies for a decadent treat on the weekend. It means never having to give up your favorite foods entirely, yet it teaches you the definition of moderation.

Noom’s color classifications are more guidelines than rules. If you go over your red food allotment for the day but stay within your calorie range—or even exceed your daily calorie count in total—there are no repercussions beyond seeing the bar chart exceed your target ceiling. And, really, that’s enough—if you see that you’re exceeding your totals day after day, you’re only cheating yourself in the long run.

How does fitness fit into WW and Noom?

WW allows you to expand your daily budget by working out, which earns you “FitPoints.” For example, a half-hour of elliptical at a high intensity yields around 9 points, and a half-hour of vigorous yoga yields 4 points. If you accrue enough fitness points, you’ll have more food points added to your daily SmartPoint budget. But you don’t have to apply your FitPoints to your food plan. Instead, you can set a weekly FitPoint goal and simply aim to hit your goal each week, or surpass it to increase your activity levels.

Noom has a paid add-on option for a custom workout plan. Beyond that, the app encourages you to exercise on a daily basis, whether that’s walking or taking a yoga or spin class. There is a daily box to check whether or not you’ve exercised. You can sync Noom with your phone’s health data (e.g., Apple Health or Google Fit), a Fitbit, or other fitness tracker so that you don’t have to enter in fitness information manually. If you do that, Noom will set a daily step goal for you that varies based on your history. It starts off at 2,000 steps per day and goes up from there, as long as you complete that day’s goal. If you miss a day, it regresses.

How do WW and Noom provide social support?

Both WW and Noom have active and supportive communities, in which you may or may not participate, based on your preferences and what motivates you.

WW has been around for over fifty years, so the user base is gigantic. You can find brand ambassadors and forums on Facebook and Instagram, sharing their health journeys, asking questions, swapping recipes, and inspiring each other with their accomplishments. All you have to do is search “Weight Watchers” or “WW” and they will appear. On the WW platform itself, there are several native social support systems. No matter what plan you purchase, you get access to a chat function to ask WW any technical questions. There are countless recipes and resources on the WW website. Additionally, there is a feed very similar to an Instagram feed that allows you to share photos, follow other users, and interact with comments.

Noom also offers access to a support specialist, as well as a group chat with other Noom users who started around the same time as you. The support specialist seems useful if you have any questions. The group chat is hit-or-miss, depending on the makeup of the group you’re assigned to. Over several weeks, there can be moments when the chatroom is very active and lots of people are participating, and there are other times where it’s mostly crickets. You’ll also find Noom and “#NoomNerds” on Facebook and Instagram, though not nearly to the extent of WW’s presence.

What are the downsides of WW and Noom?

Neither WW nor Noom are perfect. There are some downsides to each, and mostly the downsides overlap. Food tracking can be tedious on both programs and it’s especially annoying when products aren’t in the database so you have to assemble recipes from scratch.

With both programs, it can also be easy to burn out on mainly eating “healthy” foods, unless you have a game plan for how you’ll switch it up. If you’re constantly having the same zero-point (on WW) or green (on Noom) foods without varying the preparation, seasonings, or even trying completely new things (such as veggies you’ve never considered before), you’ll get bored or flat-out fed up.

One potential problem with WW is that you may not like the initial plan you sign up for. While some users don’t like having a coach, other people love it. Some enjoy having more freedom with tracking and food, but others want more discipline. It may take some time and experimenting to figure out what will work best for you and your goals.

Noom-specific concern is that the articles and quizzes have a particular language to them that some people may find off-putting. Some of the messages, quiz answers, and button language can come across as a little condescending. There is also a technical problem where you can’t edit a custom meal once you’ve added it. Our tester accidentally typed “puttanesca dauce,” and was irked that she couldn’t fix the typo (and customer support was no help on such a minor—but maddening—issue).

Which program is right for you: WW (formerly Weight Watchers) or Noom?

At the bottom line, both WW (formerly Weight Watchers) and Noom aim to change your relationship with food by simply encouraging you to eat more healthy foods than unhealthy ones. Both use food and weight logging, and both implement a structure to categorize foods to help you make better food choices.

WW may be a better choice for folks who aren’t as knowledgeable about good nutrition; its plans offer more structure and guidance when it comes to points counting, which is just a simplified version of good old-fashioned calorie counting. Its programs also offer greater hand-holding in the forms of one-on-one coaching and very active social communities. For some, this may be motivational; for others, unneeded or even annoying.

Noom may be a better choice for those who’d like their weight-loss journey to be more personal rather than public, and for those who suspect they might need a reset in their mentality toward eating and exercise. There are no meetings to attend or calls to coordinate, just simple food tracking and a willingness to complete the daily tasks that are part of the program.

The most successful customers are the ones who ultimately no longer need to use the programs because they establish better long-term eating and workout habits. As neither plan has forbidden foods, there’s no feeling of deprivation, and there’s no explaining yourself to anyone that you’re on a special diet. The freedom in these programs makes weight loss much easier than going it alone, and both offer a great place to begin if you feel lost in redirecting your health journey.

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