Health

I Tried Noom Coach so You Don't Have To

I Tried Noom Coach So You Don't Have To | Writing Between Pauses

In the efforts to be fully transparent, and as body positive as I can be while also working on my physical weight for health reasons, I tried Noom for a variety of reasons, some of them weight-related and some of them not. I’m really excited to tell you how it went. However, I understand reviews like these can be really triggering, especially for those struggling with negative body image. As always, if you feel something like this will be hard for you to read, don’t hesitate to close the window.

I started using Noom, an app that divided food into Green, Yellow, and Red groups, at least 5 years ago. I remember signing up and having the app on my phone. I didn’t like the Red, Yellow, and Green designations; I totally “got” it, but it didn’t really help my issues with seeing foods as “bad” versus “good.”

And while Noom does subscribe to the idea that making foods taboo is bad, using Red, Yellow, and Green ascribes them to “Stop,” “Caution”, and “Go”, which still arranges them on a spectrum of Good to Bad. For all their dedication to terminology at Noom, I don’t know why they kept this designation system! They could have at least chosen different colors.

Either way, I stopped using the app and promptly forgot about it until I heard an ad for that very same app on one of the many podcasts I listen to. “Huh?” I thought. “Noom costs MONEY now?!” I needed to know what the difference was.

Noom Coach is a program like the app I used way back when—that same structure of assigning food to categories and you eat a percentage of the category each day—with the added addition of a Goal Specialist, a Group function, and more. Basically, it became a support program to help you navigate both the physical aspects of weight loss and the emotional and psychological aspects as well. As someone who has struggled with my weight for a long time, I found this focus a little refreshing; there is a lot of psychology around the foods we eat and why (as well as the foods we don’t eat and why) and I’ve always been very interested in it.

As well, since one of my goals in 2019, is to have a second baby, I knew I needed to get to a starting point that would be less damaging to my body than last time. (Again, that disclaimer at the beginning of this post comes in). This is something I need to do for my long-term health, since having preeclampsia during a pregnancy massively increases my risk of heart disease. I thought Noom would be a great option for that, since it seems a little more gentle than, say, Weight Watchers.

What is Noom?

Ok, so first things first: what is Noom? Noom is, like a said, a weightloss app. But it’s design is not just like MyFitnessPal or Weight Watchers. It targets the psychological aspects of weight gain and loss as well. Like I said, they divide foods into Green, Yellow, and Red. Basically, Green foods are foods that are nutrient dense, but not calorie dense. Everything in Noom is based on caloric density. Green foods are things like fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread, leafy greens. Yellow foods are things like avocado and peanut butter; nutrient dense, but also kind of calorically dense. And Red foods, despite Noom’s insistence that no that’s not the case are the foods you expect: butter, oil, fast food, coffees.

But it’s more than just tracking food. I only signed up for a 2 week free trial (and spoiler alert, I did not spend the money for the first 3 months), but I still had access to the Goal Specialist you are assigned immediately. After a while, you’ll also be assigned a Group Coach, as well as a Support Team. That means within the app you have daily articles to read, quizzes to take, and more, as well as daily weigh ins, tracking your intake, and more. Plus, you’ll have support throughout the entire time.

In theory, this sounds like a great program. They set you up for success right from the beginning and just ask you to be more conscious of choosing nutrient dense foods. For me, that worked really well.

My Experience Using Noom

I’m an emotional eater. I know this. I know it! I also know that I love, love, love certain foods and viscerally hate others. I am a very picky eater. I don’t like most condiments. I don’t like anything mushy. I struggle with leafy greens because I find the texture really unpleasant in my mouth. In general, I’m just a picky eater. I am also extremely busy and very stressed. I have a 3-year-old, a full time job, and a lot going on in my life right now. When I originally started this review, my brother was about to get married—and if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that this was a huge stressful event in my life. Well, a lot happened both before and after the wedding; so much so that I had to put this review aside to deal with it and not use this review as a place to unload.

I’ll just say: my experience with Noom did not help my stress levels.

Like I said, I think Noom’s setup is absolutely great; the app is lovely and easy to use. I loved the daily articles about psychology. I loved the quizzes. The separating of food into color groups made sense, but I still found it a little triggering to see that Red column. There was one thing I had a huge problem with. It was my Goal Specialist.

I want to preface this, again, with this: I know 100% that my experience is based entirely on the fact that one person messed up and it ruined the entire app for me. I know that. And I know that if I had gotten any other Goal Specialist, who was more of a match to me, i probably would have spent the money on Noom Coach to keep going for 3 months. I know those things.

Ok, so, it’s time to talk about what happened.

The purpose of the Goal Specialist is to walk you through the goals you set up in Noom. My goal was to have a baby in 2019 and to get to a happier, healthier point, both physically and mentally. I won’t say the name of the Goal Specialist I was assigned; we’ll call her S. The thing about the Goal Specialist was that she only really sent me one message per day—and in fact, for the first 4 days of the program, I only got 1 message from her asking me to think about things I wanted to work on, then message her on Wednesday after I signed up. That was easy enough.

Here’s roughly what I sent:

“Hi S! I’ve been thinking about things I want to work on and I definitely think preparing ahead is going to be a big one. I feel like I’m busy all the time and end up grabbing whatever is easiest to eat once I get to work. I have a toddler and getting him out the door is my number one priority in the morning, alongside making sure my husband gets to work on time. I feel like I don’t really have the time or energy to really food prep, so ideas for grab-and-go items I can have ready would be amazing!”

I got a reply from S nearly 24 hours after I sent that. Almost always, if she messaged me in the morning and I replied immediately, it would be 24 hours before she replied again. I don’t know if this was part of the program, but it made communicating really difficult. I unfortunately didn’t save her response when I deleted and unsubscribed from the program and app, but this is roughly what she said:

Michelle, it sounds to me like you’re making a lot of excuses. We all have the same time in the day.”

Firstly, categorically, no, we don’t all have the same time in the day. I work 65+ hours a week adding up all my various jobs and responsibilities, on top of having a toddler, cooking and cleaning, caring for a large dog, and taking time for myself. I work out 4 days a week already. The subtle implication that I’m lazy made me see absolute red. This reply was not helpful and did not answer my question or request whatsoever; it didn’t help me get to my goals. It was demotivating and damaging.

My reply was absolute shock that she would say something like that to me. It was not a supportive comment to make to someone who was asking for very specific suggestions. I replied and told her that absolutely was not something I was ok with her saying and I would be requesting a new Goal Specialist. Which I did.

It took 4-5 days for them to assign me a new Goal Specialist.

In that time, S messaged me again and apologized, then again implied that I don’t grocery shop! So great, another snide comment about being lazy. Nice!

When I was assigned my new Goal Specialist, I was close to the end of my free trial. I tried having a conversation with my Goal Specialist about how I was struggling to remain motivated to use the app after S’s messages and, again, it always took nearly 24 hours to receive a reply. When I expressed concern about the program when it took so damn long for anyone to reply to me, the new Goal Specialist (we’ll call her A) simply apologized. Finally, I realized I was done; it wasn’t working for me, despite the fact that it had everything I really wanted in a weight loss app. I told A I wanted to cancel my subscription before the end of my free trial so that I would not be charged for 3 months.

It took two days for that to happen, but I wasn’t surprised by that.

Final Thoughts

I know that’s a lot to read. And trust me, it took me an embarrassing amount of hours to write it in a way that wasn’t just emotional.

As someone who is incredibly Type A and fears being seen as lazy, being called lazy was a huge trigger for me. (And again, I realize this is the action of one person, but it is one person who represents Noom.) It made me immediately not want to even open the app, let alone follow what it told me. If the representative thought I was just lazy and making excuses, then what did it matter? The things I struggle with—taking time for myself, taking a break from working, not having to be perfect all the time—are very real, and yet, I felt like my Goal Specialist had completely devalued the things I struggle with. She acted like they weren’t real and that hurt a lot.

I think part of this issue is this: i was assigned a Goal Specialist that was 1) much younger than me and 2) not a parent. I don’t mean this as a way to talk down to young people (she was maybe 22 or 23) or people who aren’t parents. But fundamentally, the life experience between a fresh-out-of-college Gen Z and a 30-year-old millennial is monumental. The same as between a non-parent and a parent. I definitely feel sometimes that young people and non-parents look at parents and think we are just being lazy in regards to what we eat and our activity levels. But it’s not true. We know it’s not true, but it’s impossible to fight a stereotype, ultimately.

And beyond just that life experience level, what does a Goal Specialist who has never been overweight, never had to rush a toddler into the car to get to drop off on top, never had to walk around with the evidence of pregnancy on their body forever, know about my life? About my experience in this body? About the invisible sacrifices I make both at home and at work daily? The ways in which I have to choose between my health and the health of my family? How can they help me when they think I’m just making excuses? If you read even a single article about working mothers, you know that we perform massive amounts of emotional labor and make sacrifices every day. (And when I say working mothers, I mean mothers who stay home too. Taking care of a home and raising children full time is work, they just aren’t being compensated.) What can a Goal Specialist expect to motivate me when they only see my inability to remember breakfast as being lazy? When they don’t see that in the time I forgot to grab a healthy breakfast, I dropped off a toddler who cried and wanted to stay with me, made sure my husband had breakfast and lunch for work, cleaned up the living room, got to work, arranged my schedule for the day, started working, and made sure coffee was made for the office?

We all have things we struggle with, of course. This isn’t unique to parenthood or motherhood. But I definitely felt that Noom was missing that crucial element of assigning Goal Specialists based on experience. It felt incredibly random and S just wasn’t a good fit for me. In fact, she set me back in terms of my mental health and it took a long time for me to be able to talk about it. I haven’t even told Danny about my experience on Noom.

So, to summarize, here are my thoughts:

  • Noom is, in theory, a great program.

  • There are still some major issues with the way Noom assigns Goal Specialists, as well as their system for tracking.

I found the entire experience really disappointing and, frankly, disconcerting. It’s the New Year and Noom advertisements are everywhere. if you see one and it sparks in you to try it, I hope this review helps you better weigh whether the cost is worth it.

How to Protect Your Eyes from UV Rays in the Winter

How to Protect Your Eyes from UV Rays in the Winter | Writing Between Pauses

I recently partnered with Visionworks to promote the new location at the Valley River Mall in Eugene, Oregon. That’s my hometown mall! I’ve been going to Valley River Center for as long as I can remember and having a handy place for all my vision care needs, alongside all my other favorite places to shop, is a huge bonus.

I’ve needed glasses since I was about 12. When I first got them, I refused to wear them for nearly two years—until I started driving and my mom agreed I could wear contacts. I wore contacts until around 2015, when my eyes became more sensitive while I was pregnant. I wear glasses all the time now, so keeping my prescription up to date and my eyes healthy is really important to me. As well, as a chronic migraine sufferer, keeping an eye on my, well, eyes is also hugely importance; how my glasses fit, how the lenses reflect light from my computer, and how tight they are can have a huge impact on my migraines!

One important aspect of eye health that we often forget is protecting our eyes from UV rays. We tend to think of sunglasses purely in terms of fashion or helping us see. I always wear sunglasses when I’m driving in the summer, but during the winter, I definitely lapse in that habit. The days can be so dark, we forget that UV rays can still damage our eyes and our skin. (Which is why you should wear SPF every day!)

I wanted to share a few tips for protecting your eyes from UV rays in the winter!

  • Even on cloudy or hazy days, UV rays can damage your eyes. If you’re going to be outside, wear UV blocking sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats (as well as SPF on your face and any visible skin).

  • Don’t forget your kids when wearing sunglasses and hats!

  • Snow and ice can reflect UV rays—which is why sometimes, even on cloudy days, it can still feel really bright! As well, these reflected UV rays can be even more harsh than usual. Wearing polarized sunglasses while driving in snowy & icy conditions, or while skiing or playing outside in the snow, can feel dangerous, but will help you protect your eyes and see more clearly.

You might be asking: why do my eyes need protection from UV rays? UV rays cause damage to your eye—just like your skin. This can cause cataracts to develop, as well as other degeneration issues.

And in terms of vanity, frequent squinting can contribute to both headaches and wrinkles. All that eye cream, just to squint while outside in the snow?!

Thankfully, there are lots of options for stylish and functional eyewear to protect your eyes. Different activities call for different protection. If you ski, a pair of polarized ski goggles can protect your eyes. If you travel frequently, a great pair of sunglasses fit the bill. Visit Visionworks to check out their selection—and visit your nearest location for an eye exam and to try on glasses and sunglasses!

Disclaimer: as indicated by the asterisk (*) in the title of this post, this is a sponsored post with Visionworks. All opinions, however, remain my own. To learn more about my disclosure policy, click here.

Product Review: Starbucks Cold Brew at Home!

Product Review: Starbucks Cold Brew at Home! | Writing Between Pauses

Over the summer, I developed a serious cold brew problem. The Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew at Starbucks is one of my favorite drinks of all time: it is really coffee-flavored, lightly sweet, and perfect for a cold day. It's also not super calorie heavy; 110 calories for a tall is actually pretty decent. And compared to other drinks at Starbucks, it has 14g of sugar--which is still a lot (about 3.5 teaspoons). Hence, why it's not an every day treat! 

While cruising Target, I noticed that Starbucks now sells packs to make cold brew at home. They come in a variety of flavors, but for around $8 for a box that makes one pitcher, I decided to just get the regular version. 

Cold brew at Home
Making cold brew at home
Is Starbucks cold brew at home good

The instructions are quite easy. However, it does take 24 hours from start to finish. You fill a pitcher with 4 cups of water, add the two giant tea bags of coffee grounds, and pop it in the fridge for 24 hours. Yep, 24 hours. When it's ready, you add another 4 cups of water, remove the big packs of coffee (carefully, I accidentally broke one), and your cold brew is ready to enjoy. 

Minus the fact that it took 24 hours (I don't know why I thought it would be 4-5 hours max!), the cold brew it produced was delicious. It tasted just like the cold brew you would get at Starbucks; with a packet of Truvia, a tablespoon of salted caramel creamer, and a tablespoon or so of almond milk, you have a lower-sugar Sweet Cream Vanilla Cold brew at home. 

The pitcher made about 8-10 servings of cold brew for me. At $8 for a single pitcher, that evens out to $1 or less per serving, which was pretty good considering a drink at Starbucks is $3 or more. Ultimately, it saves money and you can control the calories and amount of sugar in your drinks more effectively. 

Fall is fast approaching, so I've been experimenting with cold brew and pumpkin spice. Let me tell you: it's just as delicious with a little Pumpkin Spice creamer and almond milk! If you love cold brew, but are tired of spending so much money at coffee shops, these are a great option. 

Actually, You Don't Need a Summer Detox

Actually, You Don't Need a Summer Detox | Writing Between Pauses

The worst part of summer is not the sticky, hot weather that starts to get oppressive around, say, late August; it's not the sunburns, or bug bites, or having to work when the weather is absolutely splendid outside. No, the worst part of summer is the diet industry. 

If you read my blog, you know that I've struggled with body image for a long time. It's what made me stop taking outfit photos. And it's why I don't really photograph myself for this blog still. Trust me, I'd love to--but it's just not something I can do right at this moment. 

And you know what absolutely doesn't help? Summer and the rapid influx of blog posts, Tweets, and Instagram posts about doing a detox. More than 10 people I follow have mentioned their recent juice detox (ugh), or their extremely pared down diet that is little more than socially acceptable anorexia (double ugh). Having to mute everyone who mentions doing a summer detox is exhausting, so let me be the one to say: y'all, we don't need detoxes. 

If you have a functioning liver, you don't need to detox. Your organs do that for you. 

You also don't need to drink special tea to help you lose weight. And you also don't need appetite suppressant lollipops. 

That's right, Kim Kardashian, I'm talking to you. Instagram is often rife with diet culture, repeating absolutely false and quite frankly dangerous information. (Does anyone else get those awful weight loss accounts in their Explore section of Instagram? I swear, it's the worst part of the Instagram algorithm.) It's not just poor, misinformed Kim K whose doing it. She's in good company, of course. Every single one of her sisters (minus Kendall, bless) has posted a misguided ad for some kind of weight loss product. 

Khloe K
Kourtney Kardashian
Kylie Jenner

In case you don't know, Fit Tea (and Fit Coffee and Lyfe Tea) is a tea that acts as a laxative. That's all these products are: expensive, repackaged laxatives. Not only is it dangerous to take them as weight loss products (and not just for your dignity and outfit if you dare venture out of the house after drinking one), it's incredibly irresponsible. Laxatives are not a way to lose weight. They are a way to damage your body. Just like detoxes. 

Appetite suppressant lollipops aren't just meaningless marketing tactics (most likely, they're about as effective as eating a real lollipop); they're dangerous as well. Encouraging people to "eat a lollipop" to "suppress their appetite" presumably when they are actually hungry... is encouraging people to starve themselves. Plain and simple.

Just like these teas aren't designed to make you actively lose weight (but rather to become addicted to a mindset and product that benefits only the person who sells the tea), this isn't a lollipop designed to help curve overeating or boredom eating (two things that can be helped more effectively buy body positivity, rejecting diet culture, and intuitive eating); this is a lollipop that encourages you to starve yourself and not eat, period. But the truth is, it won't work; if you try to use it that way, you'll end up eating, which makes you feel ashamed of yourself; you'll buy more lollipops, you'll try hard. And now you're stuck in a negative binge-and-restrict diet culture induced cycle. This is the damage that ads like this cause. 

Summer detoxes are the same thing. Juice cleanses don't actually cleanse any part of you. They starve you. You'll lose weight, of course, because you aren't eating food or any fiber at all. You're just drinking empty calories, sugar, and water. This is dangerous. Your body needs food to survive. As long as you are in reasonably good health (and many people with chronic illnesses are not--and they deserve to love their bodies too), you don't need to detox yourself. If you do need to detox for a medical issue, that's something you discuss with your doctor--not with some charlatan who survives off of carrot juice on the internet. 

So as June approaches, remember: you don't need that detox. Even if your sister in law is doing one and won't stop posting about it on Instagram. Even if your friends are work mention that they want to start drinking smoothies for every meal. You don't need to detox. Your body is good enough, and beautiful enough, as it is, right at this very moment.