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Noom vs. Weight Watchers: Which Is Better for Weight Loss?

Written by Brandi Givens, RDN

Published on May 1, 2021

Noom and WW are two well-researched commercial weight loss programs that have helped many people gain a healthier lifestyle. Here’s a comparison of the two to help determine which one may be right for you.

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Noom vs. Weight Watchers: Which Is Better for Weight Loss?

Quick Facts

  WW Noom
Basis of Diet Plan Emphasis on choosing nutrient-dense foods using a point-based system, exercise, and sleep health. Calorie restriction based on choosing green, yellow, and red foods, exercise, and nutrition and food psychology lessons.
Baseline Cost $21.95–$59.95/mo. ($20 start fee) $59/mo. or $199/yr.
Support Higher-end plans offer personalized support from coaches. Support groups available either virtually or in person. Daily coach check-ins. Online support group available.
Expertise Most coaches are not nutrition experts, but some are.

Most coaches are not nutrition experts, but some are.

Weight Watchers

Pros

  • Many extras in the app like “What’s in Your Fridge” recipes, exercise videos, and sleep trackers.
  • Inexpensive; the most basic plan is less than half the price of Noom.
  • Support from peers and coaches depending on the plan.

Cons

  • Counting points may be difficult for some in the beginning.
  • Coaches are not usually nutrition experts.
  • Weekly check-in with weight checks may not be suitable for people at risk for disordered eating. 

Noom

Pros

  • Simple to follow and use.
  • Can be reasonably priced if you buy several months upfront.
  • Support from coaches and peers.
  • Focus on long-term behavior modification.

Cons

  • Cannot adjust calorie count, and calorie restrictions are lower than what most dietitians recommend.
  • Coaches are not usually nutrition experts.
  • Categorizing foods as green, yellow, red may not be suitable for people at risk for disordered eating.

How WW Works

WW, founded in the 1960s and originally called Weight Watchers, is a commercial weight loss program that focuses on teaching healthy lifestyle modifications for long-term success.

WW still has the option of their traditional in-person group meetings where available but has also expanded to meet technology and holistic trends over time.

The program is currently marketed as Weight Watchers Reimagined. It is heavily reliant on an app with digitally accessed education, a library of exercise and meditation videos, and even sleep trackers.

WW has different programs to choose from, with price points increasing based on how much support, education, and coaching users think they may need.

WW’s program is known for its point system. Users are assigned a budget of points to use toward any foods they choose each day, based on their weight loss goals.

Each food is assigned a value of points based on its nutrient density.

Low nutrient-dense foods have higher points, and high nutrient-dense foods have low or no points.

For example, broccoli and chicken breasts are assigned zero points, and donuts are assigned ten.

No foods are restricted as long as they fit into the daily points allotted. This keeps the program flexible for real-life situations like social events.

While the points system has been successful for many people for decades, some find that tracking points can be tedious and time-consuming, especially in the beginning.

WW eases this burden somewhat by offering a scanner in their app that calculates points on many foods with barcodes.

How Noom Works

Founded in 2008, Noom is an app-based commercial weight loss program that focuses on nutrition education and behavior modifications using psychology to help users develop a healthier lifestyle.

Noom does not restrict any foods or food groups but does restrict calories, discouraging people from low nutrient-dense choices.

Customers also fill out questionnaires that deduce why the user may struggle with weight from a behavioral perspective.

They are then offered education digitally based on the answers to their questions.

Calories are assigned to each user based on their age, sex, height, weight, how much weight they want to lose, and the speed they want to lose it.

The calorie assignment tends to be on the low end of what some nutrition experts agree with. There is no easy way to override the number assigned.

To help participants keep calories within their recommended limit, Noom assigns colors to foods.

Green foods are low in calories and high in nutrient density, like leafy vegetables and whole grains.

Yellow foods have higher calories, like salmon and lean beef. Red foods are either high in calories or low in nutrients, or both.

Noom recommends only small portions of red foods, even if they are considered healthy.

For example, nuts are packed with nutrients but are also calorie-dense, so they are considered red food.

Noom has one basic price that includes all of its app’s features, including digital access to coaches every day to help keep users on track.

The true expertise of assigned coaches varies, but most are not nutrition experts.

The program also encourages joining their digital groups within the app for peer support.

What’s Included in the WW App?

WW seems to constantly update its app as they strive for a complete, holistic approach.

Depending on which price point you choose for the program, the app includes:

  • Food logging for tracking points.
  • Weekly meal planner.
  • A “What’s in Your Fridge” feature for helping to make meals with food you already have.
  • A barcode scanner to check points on packaged foods.
  • Weekly check in to determine your weight progress, how you currently feel, and to set future goals.
  • Accountability and support from a live coach chat feature and group chat with other participants.
  • Sleep tracker and exercise trackers.

What’s Included in the Noom App?

Noom’s app is also simple and user-friendly. It offers:

  • Food logging for tracking calories.
  • Daily health education lessons.
  • Behavior modification information.
  • Digital access to personal coaches.
  • Community support in an assigned group.
  • Hundreds of recipes.
  • Daily feedback log.

How Successful Are WW Participants?

WW has been the focus of several studies over time, showing that it can be a successful program for weight loss.

A study compiling over 29,000 people showed that a third of patients referred to WW lost over 5% of their body weight, which is associated with clinical benefits like reduced risk of disease.

A study showed that participants who were using WW were more successful with weight loss than participants who tried to lose weight on their own.

An Australian study calculated the cost of prescribing WW program compared to the cost of future healthcare if obese people did not have an intervention program, concluding that WW was a great value for the money.

How Successful Are Noom Participants?

Even though Noom has not been around as long as WW, it still has a few extensive studies documenting solid success rates in weight loss and health improvements.

In a study published in 2016 involving over 35,000 people, 77% of participants showed a decrease in body weight while using Noom.

A diabetes prevention intervention study involving over 14,000 adults showed that using either the Noom app or a similar app resulted in a 5–8% reduction in weight loss after one year of use, which is enough to reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Another study compared the success of Noom users to women trying to lose weight on their own and showed that the app might be beneficial for both weight loss and long-term results.

The Bottom Line

Both Noom and WW offer accountability and support, education, food tracking, and encourage the healthiest food choices.

Neither program deprives their participants of any favorite foods; they are simply encouraged to limit them.

Both of these programs are backed by solid studies proving that they can work.

Both seem to be continuing to adapt and improve quickly based on customer responses to their products.

All of these are important components that contribute to weight loss success and maintenance.

The main differences between the two programs are that:

  • WW offers in-person groups for support, which can be important for adherence for some people.
  • WW has matured and improved over time, making its point system easy, structured, and effective for most people.
  • WW has a library of workout videos that come with their packages.
  • Noom education focuses on the psychology, or the “why” behind why people make less than optimal choices, creating awareness.
  • Noom comes with an accessible coach as part of their basic package.

In my opinion, WW has the edge when it comes to what it has to offer, especially if you choose to spend a little more for the higher-priced programs.

However, they are both solid support plans, and the best choice depends on user preferences.

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