weight loss

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.

Committing to Whole30

I have a few things I don't want to admit to, but I should. Firstly, as I write this, I just finished eating a mug cookie. It's my last one, I swear to you all. Secondly, Danny and I ate an entire bag of Pirate's Booty from Costco in three days. It's the last one we'll ever buy, I swear. Thirdly, while I write about this Whole30 thing, I have a headache from not drinking a soda--which suggests to me, at least, that 30 days without sugar, carbs, or anything processed might be the thing that does me in. 

I'm a carb lover. If I had my way, I would eat entire meals of carbs: toast and pizza and noodles and potatoes and plain bread, honestly. It's actually a little embarrassing how high my carb percentage is on MyFitnessPal at the end of the day. At this point, I have to acknowledge that it's kind of an addiction. I don't need this many carbs, I think as I eat another peanut butter sandwich, and then promptly start imagining making some pasta. 

When I mentioned starting Whole30, one of my friends (shout out to you, Charlotte!) mentioned not becoming one of those "Whole30 people." You know, the annoying ones. 

Whole30 is kind of cultish. If I do it (and it's a big if--I'm sure the minute my first carb craving hits, I'll be scream crying on my office floor), I refuse to pay for it. I don't need to pay money to get emails to tell me not to eat carbs or dairy today. I might try to conveniently "forget", but I'm sure I'll remember eventually. I also don't plan to give up sweeteners like stevia and honey; if I'm going to be giving up my coffee creamer, I deserve to have some freaking stevia to sweeten it. 

If you've never learned about Whole30, here are the basic rules: 

  • For 30 days, you cut all foods that are not whole fruits and vegetables, plant-based fats, and proteins. 
  • Random foods that aren't allowed include "imitation foods" (like banana pancakes), legumes and beans, and sugar of any kind. 
  • Dairy products are also not allowed, including any "imitation" dairy products like homemade creamer or that banana ice cream you see floating around on Pinterest and Instagram. 

A lot of the rules are kind of arbitrary. I will admit the creators sound distinctly Not Very Fun, but who am I to judge? They also admit that the original rules, as presented, are based on their personal beliefs and decisions--and so yeah, it's arbitrary. But in their defense, they're only suggesting you do this for 30 days--not the rest of your life. To me, I just need something to cut the cord between me and delicious, delicious carbs; I just need a hard reset. 

Here are my rules for Whole30: 

  • For 30 days, I will cut all foods that are not whole fruits & vegetables, plant-based fats, and proteins. 
  • I will be allowed to eat imitation foods like banana pancakes as long as they don't include processed ingredients. (In your face, original Whole30 creators!) 
  • I will let myself have stevia and milk for coffee because I have a 10-month-old. 

My official start date is August 1. 

I'm really excited to see how well I do at this--and how I feel after a few days. I'm best at sticking to "diets" (although I'm not thinking of this as a diet--more of as a reset for my life) if I have very strict rules to follow. I'll probably just come up with a menu and eat the same thing each and every day because I'm boring and I like a plan. 

If you'd like to follow my Whole30 journey, you can follow my fitness Instagram @fitforforrest. (And you can always follow my main instagram @michellelocke6!)

I'm Ready to Talk about Postpartum Weight Loss

While going through a journal recently, I discovered a plan I had written for losing weight after I had Forrest. The date on the page in my journal says July 26, so it's been almost a full year since I wrote down possibly the funniest, stupidest plan ever. I listed times I would go walking, workout plans, meal plans to follow. 

You know what happened? None of it. 

I had neither the time nor the confidence to take Forrest on stroller walks three weeks postpartum, let alone three months postpartum. For the first three months, I survived entirely on lactation cookies, grilled cheese sandwiches, and whatever I could cook for a few minutes while Danny held Forrest. After 3 months, I was so tired of paying attention to what I ate that I just gave up. I canceled my gym membership. I never went walking. 

I could have lost the weight by now. It's true. And actually, I am at my pre-pregnancy weight right now (but my pre-pregnancy weight was not exactly where I want to be either). I could have lost all kinds of weight by now, but sometimes, we just aren't ready. 

And we aren't ready to talk about it either. 

I read an article recently about having your picture taken when you're not exactly your ideal weight. This is a fact: I don't have any pictures of Forrest and me together that aren't selfies. I don't let people take my picture. I just don't. I also don't take my picture without carefully posing and even then, I'll probably cry about how it looks if I see it. Another fact: I know I'll regret not having pictures, good ones, with him when he's older and when I'm older. 

Not having my picture taken is my attempt to deny that I've gained weight. I always have this idea that if I can put it off just a little bit longer, give myself more time, I'll avoid having to confront the idea that I am bigger than I've ever been. I have a fear of people I knew in high school looking at pictures and saying, "Wow, Michelle got big." I was self-conscious in high school and I'm still self-conscious now. I went through a phase where I finally felt pretty... and now I've lost it. I'm back to high school me, nervous and embarrassed about how I look, and it's not fun. 

One more fact: I am bigger. I have gained weight. Yes, I've gotten "big." But I like to think that, in reality, when people see pictures of me they won't think, "Wow, Michelle got big." Instead, they'll think: Michelle had a baby, or Michelle got married, or Michelle looks so happy.

I like to think that as a society we can move past the expectation that we will all stay at our ideal, pre-adult bodies forever; I like to think that we can move past the expectation that the minute you have a baby, you should start restricting calories. I like to think we've moved past the discussion of women's bodies as assets. I want to believe that we can move past the idea that women should only take up a tiny amount of space. 

The truth is: I'm bigger now than I ever have been. But my life is bigger now too. 

It doesn't mean I will stay like this forever. I eat healthier than most people I know: I eat banana pancakes and boiled eggs; I snack on cheese sticks and carrots; I cook chicken and broccoli for dinner more often than not. I won't pretend to see my errors: last week, I ate an entire box of Cheez-its in a day because they were there and if Danny even suggests Taco Bell, I have no willpower to refuse. This is my body, though. This is the size I am. I can't deny it anymore. 

It doesn't mean that I got here through laziness. I worked out every day for two years. Then I had a baby. Then I fed a baby with my body (via an electrical pump) for 6 months. 

I'm ready to talk about postpartum weight loss. I'm ready to say I'm just starting, that I'm working on it every day, and that I know I will succeed and move past my food issues right now. I'm ready to admit that I struggle every day, that I wish I could eat pizza as nonchalantly as most of the population. I'm ready to say that I'm tired of my clothes not fitting. 

I wasn't ready before, but I am now. 

Follow my weight loss journey on my new fitness Instagram, @fitforforrest

My New Year's Resolutions

I do best with accountability & patterns. 

I do best with accountability & patterns. 

I have never once kept a New Year's Resolution. But then again, I've never really made them. Every year, I half-hearted set goals that I then toss aside when real life kicks in; in that lofty space between Christmas and January, life feels as full of possibilities as I feel of cookies. I indulge and I want to change, but then once the time-travel feel of the last week of December wears off, I forget about that and go back to what I always do. 

Not this year. I say that with conviction and, despite my doubts, I intend for 2015 to be the year where I toss out my bad habits and replace them with at least decent ones. Here are my resolutions:

  • Complete the Beach Body Guide by Kayla Itsines. You can check Kayla out here or on Instagram. I've been hearing about Kayla for a few months, but didn't put a lot of stock in her guide. However, after following her on Instagram and seeing some of the insane before & after photos (posted by real people on real Instagram accounts!!), I have to admit I wanted it for myself. My goal, instead of having a goal to work out or lose weight or whatever, is to finish the first 12 weeks of Kayla's BBG.
     
  • Eat healthier, smaller meals. I have an unfortunate habit of not eating throughout the day (when you sit in front of a computer for 8 hours straight, it's difficult to actually feel hungry) and then going crazy in the evenings. I eat healthier than I used to, but my portion sizes are still a little messed up. I want to focus on eating more protein, less empty carbs, and drinking more water! 
     
  • Start, and finish, a project. I have half-finished scrapbooks all over the place. Half-started stories everywhere. Blog ideas scribbled down on post-it notes and hastily shoved into a drawer under my desk. It's time to finish a project, self, at least one. C'mon. 
     
  • Read at least one book a week. And not just fiction! As I read the Romanov Sisters, I am reminded of how much I love history books. I read a lot and I want to continue that trend this year. 
     
  • Make date nights a thing. Danny and I both have very short attention spans. Sometimes, we will dedicate a Friday night to watching a movie -- but I'll often end up reading during it or just going upstairs to write. I want to dedicate at least one day a week to doing an activity with Danny -- whether that is cooking dinner, baking something, going to a movie, or working out.