Noom has been called "Weight Watchers for millennials," but Weight Watchers has made significant updates to its program. Which one is best for you?
Looking to lose weight? There are hundreds of diets and programs to try, but WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) is one of the longest-standing, dating back to the 1960s. Then there's the new(er) comer Noom, which launched in 2008 and has been called "Weight Watchers for millennials." Both programs promise to help you lose weight and keep it off, though each is unique in its approach.
In picking the right one for you, there are a few factors to consider, including price, how the program is structured and the features you want.
Remember that you don't have to spend money to lose weight, but a program might help you be the most successful in your weight loss efforts. Or perhaps you're the kind of person who feels more motivated to stick with a regime if you're paying for it. Either way, we break down the pros and cons of WW and Noom below to help you decide which is best for you.
WW has been around for decades, but it's come leaps and bounds from tracking points by hand. Rather than counting calories, the program assigns points to foods and recipes and sets a certain amount of points for your day based on your height, weight and weight loss goals.
You'll track breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks Monday through Sunday. You have daily points to use (a number that resets each morning). You also get extra weekly points to use, which gives you some wiggle room to go over your daily amount. Within the WW app, you can also log exercise (the app can sync with your Fitbit and Apple Health) and weight changes, try out WW recipes and look up WW-friendly restaurants. You can also search for foods or scan barcodes in the WW app.
WW offers three meal plans to choose from: Blue (the traditional WW plan, which gives you a number of daily points plus certain zero-point foods such as fruits, veggies, lean proteins and eggs), Purple (gives you fewer daily points but more zero-point foods, including whole grains) and Green (gives you more daily points but fewer zero-point foods). You can switch plans at any time.
While there are zero-point foods in every plan, that doesn't mean those foods have zero calories, or that you should only eat those foods. Instead, the goal is to train you to make healthier food choices. The company is adamant that no food is off-limits.
Here's what WW's different programs break down in terms of cost:
Digital (app only): Just over $3 per week
Digital 360 (app and WW-certified coaches): About $5 per week with a 30-day free trial
Unlimited Workshops and Digital: (app plus unlimited on-demand digital content and live coach-led sessions with other members) About $6 per week, in select locations with WW studios
One-on-one Coaching and Digital: (app and one-on-one private coaching) About $11 per week
Prices may change with new year's promotions, check the WW website for full details.
For more information, check out CNET's full WW review.
Noom touts itself as a lifestyle, not a diet. The service, which has been around for just over 10 years, focuses on consistency and accountability. These are two things that can make or break health and fitness goals. In addition, the app focuses on teaching you about nutrition, and helps you pinpoint why you want to lose weight (which can be quite the eye-opener).
When you sign up for Noom, you're assigned a coach, who'll message you every few days to check in on your progress. Sometimes the comments felt vague, almost like it was an automated message, but some messages were more specific to what I had written to the coach. One nice feature is that you can set up the app to be aware of when you might be close to "falling off the wagon." For example, I set up my warning signs to be that I didn't open the app that day, which signaled the coach to check in with me.
The coach and the way Noom "schedules" your day was one of my favorite aspects. You're given a daily checklist with specific articles to read and quizzes about health, food, fitness and nutrition. It might sound boring, but I appreciate the educational aspect that Noom includes in its program. The daily articles, along with messages from my coach, made me feel like my weight-loss journey had a bit more structure. You can also save any recipes, articles and the like to refer back to later.
Unlike WW, with its points system, Noom counts calories. Depending on how fast or slow you choose in the app to lose weight will determine the amount of calories Noom gives you -- in addition to the other vitals you input. Noom suggests experimenting to find a good balance for you.
Noom sorts foods into red, yellow and green based on calorie density. Red foods are more processed, yellows tend to be meats and dairy and green foods are fruits, veggies, etc. The app wants you to eat more "nutrient-dense" foods, which means those with fewer calories that are more filling. However, some Noom reviewers have complained that some "healthy" foods, such as oatmeal, are sorted into the red group.
Noom is pricier than WW: It costs $60 per month, but you get all of the features mentioned above for your dollar. You can also choose to buy months in "bulk" to help save money -- two to eight months, or annually.
Still not sure if Noom is right for you? Read our full Noom review for more details.
When it comes to choosing between WW and Noom, think about which program would work best for you and your lifestyle.
WW has been around longer, but Noom has a lot of promise. It went beyond "Eat this, don't eat this" and incorporated an educational element for sustaining healthy habits. It's a bit more expensive but includes more features. Both apps seemed to have learned a bit from each other as well -- WW has taken on some of Noom's more quirky, millennial-focused features and Noom has toned down some of the rigidity of its program (like weighing in every day).
Scientific studies back up both programs: A 2016 study published in the journal Nature examined nearly 36,000 Noom users and found that the app drove sustained weight loss in 78% of people across a nine-month period. A 2017 study published in The Lancet journal found that out of a test group who struggled with obesity, 57% lost weight on WW compared to 42% on another weight loss program.
Researching both apps before you get started is important. Don't be afraid to try both since there are free trials, and if you don't feel comfortable with something -- with either program, discontinue it or consult a doctor. In addition, it's important to take inventory of yourself, taking into consideration why you want to lose weight. If you have a history of disordered eating behaviors, it's crucial to talk with your doctor before starting either program, as they both restrict the amount of food you eat.