Thursday, October 24, 2019

Graduation Day! (A Noom Review)

259 Days. 37 Weeks. The last time I thought about those numbers was when I was pregnant. 37 weeks was considered the first full-term marker. After 37 weeks you could breathe a small sigh of relief. And so it was with me today.

Sixteen weeks into the program I did an in-depth review  which I'm pasting here rather than go over it all again. There is nothing in this first review that I would change as a result of the other 16 weeks. After this review section I'll talk about those additional weeks in the program.

It's hard to believe that I've been working on the Noom lifestyle change program for 16 weeks now. The time has flown by, not entirely due to Noom, but also to the fact that we've moved into a new apartment, helped our daughter fix up, pack, and clean their house that they sold, helped them move into their new house, and then moved out of our apartment and into the carriage house above the garage in our daughter's new home. All in 16 weeks.


The initial Noom program is 16 weeks in length. During that time, the NoomNerds (yes it's a real term) taught me about not only how and what to eat, but why I eat the things that I do. Each morning I open the Noom app and am presented with a screen for today. It includes a tab to weigh in (something you do every morning), a tab to log your meals for the day using their food database, and a couple tabs of lessons, or tasks, to complete. In the beginning, the lessons are light-hearted and a bit on the high school cheer leader-ish rah rah side, a point that almost led me not to sign up after my two-week free trial. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not the rah-rah cheerleader type. I realize the seriousness of being overweight, and I want professional help to deal with it. But...at the end of the two week trial period I was down 6.2 pounds so I decided to sign up and stick with it. The cost for the 16 weeks was $129. I measured that against my previous weight loss program through Weight Watchers, where I am a lifetime member, and it would have totaled $203. So I took the plunge. I'm glad I stuck with it because as you progress through the weeks the approach becomes less cheerleader-ish and more serious. If you were to find professional counseling with the same content, you wouldn't find even one session of this quality of counseling for the price you're paying for 16 weeks of Noom.

The early lessons help you to form your Big Picture: your end goal, why you want to attain that goal, and how your life will be different as a result. Right off the bat your focus is led inward to self reflection rather than an obsession with popular body image or scale numbers. There are lessons that help you to identify what type of eater you are, types of triggers and what trigger causes you to overeat, unhealthy thought distortions and healthy ways to measure success.

Right at the beginning you're paired with an individual coach. The coach checks in with you once a week, but he/she is available to you via the Noom message app whenever you need help. There is usually a delay in response time due to the fact that most of these folks have other jobs as well, but I never had a time when I felt like a question or need wasn't answered. I did have one issue early on with the coaching system. The individual coaches are clearly following a script in their coaching and a lot of times the script just didn't apply to me. I understand the need for some cross-program standardization in their individual coaching, but there needs to be more individual shaping of the coaching depending on the individual in the program. To explain this better, the average person signing up for Noom appears to be middle-aged and in the prime of their high-stress work environment. I, on the other hand, am retired, so I have virtually no stress in my life at all. In addition, I'm in the absolute perfect environment to have success on this program. I have all the time in the world to research, plan, shop, and prepare healthy food. I have excellent sources of healthy food close by.  I have 7 grandkids within shouting distance to walk with and get lots of exercise. I have an incredibly supportive spouse. So my needs are not about stress, but about persistence. As we progressed along, my coach began to get to know my needs and help was more appropriate, so all is well now and I find her support very valuable.

At the end of the two-week free trial you are placed in a group of people who started at the same time. My group consisted of about 50 people, but only about 20 actually ever participated in the group messaging. Our group is incredibly supportive, full of ideas, has a great sense of humor, and a very talented group coach. It has been a tremendously positive experience, but I understand from a few other folks that their groups are not quite as good, so this may not be a universal experience. The absolute key to a successful group is kindness, encouragement and respect. If you can't be kind, encourage those not like you, and respect the fact that different things work for different people, then be silent. At the beginning of our group we had one member that was caustic, was deeply critical of anyone who was doing different things than what she thought was the best way. It got so bad that the offending member had to be transferred out. If you find you're in a similar situation, don't hesitate to be proactive and to get with your individual coach about the issue so they can take care of it before it gets out of hand.

Now, a word to the Noom app. This is my one and only serious gripe with Noom. Their technology is very, very behind the times. The messaging app has a few major flaws, such as the fact that there are no "threads," just a running conversation. This makes it almost impossible to locate a previous message that you wanted to save (like a link to a recipe online or something.) There is also a serious flaw in the messages read function. If you go into the group conversation the new messages will have a NEW flag on them and new comments will be highlighted in red. All good so far, but if you only read the first one and then have to go do something else and leave the screen, when you come back all the new messages will no longer be flagged new. It appears that the NEW function is per entry into the conversation, not on a message-by-message basis. With so many really good messaging platforms out there it's hard to believe that they couldn't find one to use that allows threads and flagging based on individual messages. Granted, I'm a techie, but I hear a lot of other people complaining about the same issue.

The second technological issue is with the food database. While there are some good aspects to it like being able to save a meal that you eat frequently, I've found a ton of errors in the database itself. A huge percentage of brand-specific foods that I log are not correct according to the package I'm looking at and generic foods are not specific enough in their description. Since I've found over 100g difference in some of the apples that I eat, I've taken to weighing each one and logging by grams rather than just "1 apple." Don't depend on the barcode scanner either without verifying the calories on the label of the product. A huge percentage of them are wrong. Another very minor issue is that if you plan all of your meals in the morning, you have to go all the way back out to the main menu between each meal which is several screens. There should be a function that allows you to save that meal and enter the next, a suggestion I've made and has been forwarded to the appropriate people.

Another very minor issue for me was the lack of program instruction in the beginning. There was very little instruction on how to use the food database and it was weeks before I found out I could save my meals. I was almost to the end of the sixteen weeks before I found out I could share a meal to the group.  It took days before I even figured out I could log my exercise. There are a lot of things that make the journey easier and I feel like there should be a tutorial that shows you all of these things. There is a help section in the menu but it's not very complete or intuitive. A simple tutorial with all of the shortcuts would be extremely helpful. I suspect that you could find most of these shortcuts given the time, but in the beginning you are so overwhelmed by what you're learning that it's hard to spend hours a day playing with obscure buttons to see what they do. I also felt a little lost as I approached the end of the sixteen weeks. I needed more information on what would happen if I did or did not sign up for another session so I could make an informed decision, help I needed without asking a hundred questions of my coach.

One of the most profound differences between Noom and any other method I've used to lose weight is the fact that Noom is not a diet program. It's a lifestyle change program. While they will teach you how to choose foods that will benefit your overall health, they don't specify what foods. They stress balance and variety, but one whole week of lessons is dedicated to looking at different food choices like low carb, high protein, vegetarian, vegan, intermittent fasting...you name it. The emphasis is in getting away from labeling food as "good" or "bad" and in saying "I choose to or not to eat such and such." The emphasis is on balanced, whole health including food, activity and happiness. The other huge difference is that the program is designed to train you to be able to do it on your own. No lifetime membership required here. They want you to build good habits, to learn to make good choices, to better your health and happiness and then....they kick you free. Yes, you heard me right. I'ts a scary prospect, a bit like I'm sure little birds feel when they get thrust from the cozy nest, but let's face it folks. We're grownups and we can learn to do this without somebody monitoring our weight and progress with a weekly meeting. Not to say you're left without support if you need it. The relationships that you form with your group members go on after you leave. We've all exchanged emails and I formed a closed group on Facebook so we can keep in touch.

So at the end of my first sixteen-week session, and as I sign up for another sixteen-week session to cement these new habits over a maintenance period, what's my takeaway?

In sixteen weeks I...

lost 35.4 pounds
took 1,171941 steps
walked 506 miles
climbed 2,088 floors of stairs
learned to take the stairs instead of the elevator
learned to correctly estimate portions
learned to change my all-or-nothing approach to success
made my husband a much happier home environment

What makes Noom different? Because it's not a diet. It's a course in YOU.

It's important to note that if you don't like to take an honest look at your motivations then this program will not likely work for you.

It takes about an hour a day for me to work through the tasks and to log my meals. Then there's the increased exercise which takes about another hour a day for me. So if you want to try Noom, be sure that you have the time to properly commit to it, and the desire for genuine success, even if it means discovering some things about yourself that you don't really like.

Six months ago I would never have believed you if you had said I would be here at my goal weight again. I had given up hope, pretty settled in the belief that I would be fat the rest of my life. I was very unhappy with my body, with myself and my lack of ability to fix this. So to say that on this day at the end of my sixteen weeks I am a different person is an accomplishment of huge proportions. So the final end-all be-all is the question, "Would I recommend Noom to someone else?" And to this I can only answer an emphatic "Yes!" 

At week 21 you have two choices. You can either have your coach reset you back to the beginning and you can go through the lessons again, or you can continue on to what they call "Post Core" which is a maintenance training program. If you're not at goal weight yet, then most people reset to the earlier lessons to refresh their memories on core principles. On May 4th I had reached my old Weight Watcher goal of 155# but my doctor recommended that I try for a lower weight at my age and current height. (It seems that I've shrunk almost 2" over my life due to a back injury many years ago.) After some checking he recommended 145# as my new goal. Since I was very close to that goal at the end of the 20 weeks I decided to go straight into the maintenance portion. I reached my new goal on June 18. I continued to lose a bit more while figuring out what my new maintenance calorie budget was going to be and I've been firmly below 140# for over three months now.

The Post Core section of the program is kind of like a baby bird getting pushed out of the nest but the momma bird still brings it food while it flaps around pretty helplessly on the ground. The lessons are all reviews of key principles and there are only one or two of them each day. There is only a weekly required weigh-in but the tabs for daily food logging and exercise are there to be used. They assume by this point that you're ready to discipline yourself to log your food and exercise without constant reminders.

Some Noomers that I've spoken with don't like the Post Core program. I admit it was a bit scary at first, that being pushed out of the nest. There was this sudden realization that you have to be the grown-up in the room and no one is going to do it for you. I quickly adapted to it and was actually rather pleased to find that it gave me confidence to do it on my own. By the end of my second 4-month session I was ready to graduate. In reviewing my notes, I found a quote that showed up at the 15 week mark in one of the tasks:

   "While you'll always be a part of the Noomily, (Noom nerds name for the Noom family...) once you've developed, practiced, and solidified the skills you need to lead a healthy lifestyle today and every day going forward, we want you to be on your merry way."

That's one of the unique things about Noom. No, they don't want you to pay a membership fee for the rest of your life. No, they don't want you to buy their brand name food the rest of your life. They want you to learn, grow, and do it on your own. I was a little taken aback by this. Every other diet/food plan I've ever participated in wanted you attached at the hip for life.

Now that I've graduated, I've entered a new phase for me. I'm still using the app to log my weight, food, and exercise daily. I'm using a journal to jot my thoughts down. I'm learning to see this new me, this healthy me, this active me for whom food is a part but not the controlling whole. It's  been an amazing ride, this journey with Noom, one I'm forever grateful for. How appropriate that the upcoming Thanksgiving season is my season for celebration.

So if you have any doubt about whether to take the Noom plunge, take a look inside and see if you're ready to be honest with yourself, then dive right in. I promise you that the results of your hard work will be worth it.




After: at goal
Before


Cinnamon Pecan Breakfast Quinoa Bowl

The temps are dropping here in St. Louis right along with the brightly colored leaves. The brisk, fresh air scented with the first use of fireplaces in the city drives me to comfort foods, so I've been looking for new recipes that can adapt to the healthier versions.

I noticed a bag of quinoa in my pantry when I did the fall cleanout that needed to be used, so I cooked the whole bag and put it in one of my leftover containers in the fridge and went off to look for some new recipes with it. I happened on a recipe for Cinnamon Toast Breakfast Quinoa over on cookieandkate.com which is one of my favorite cooking blogs and decided to give it a try with a few modifications to suit my new eating regime. With very few modifications, here's the end result.

Cinnamon Pecan Breakfast Quinoa Bowl: 448 calories
Ingredients:

1 cup cooked quinoa
2 tablespoons of chopped pecans
1 teaspoon coconut oil
2 dates, finely chopped
Liberal amounts of Cinnamon to taste
Dash of Nutmeg
Dash of salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Directions:

Prepare quinoa. This recipe uses 1 cup of cooked quinoa but make as much as you think you'll need. I  make a large batch and then use it over a week, but it also freezes well in containers or ziplocs. If cooking quinoa drives you crazy like it always has me, Kate has a really great tutorial on her site. The only thing that I would add, is that I have found my nut  milk bag works the best for rinsing quinoa since none of my mesh strainers are fine enough to prevent the tiny grains from slipping through.




Toast 2 Tablespoons of chopped pecans in a dry skillet over medium low. Watch them carefully as they burn quickly. I suppose you could use other types of nuts if pecans aren't your favorite, but I find they add a special flavor to the dish.

Add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil to the pan and stir till nuts are fragrant, 20-30 seconds.
 Finely chop 2 dates and add to the nut mixture. I use kitchen scissors to chop dates. It seems to work better than a knife because they don't stick to the scissors.

Stir the date/nut mixture briefly until the dates are warm and softened, around a minute.
Add the quinoa, sprinkle liberally with cinnamon, a touch of nutmeg, and salt and stir well to combine. Stir in 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and heat just till warm throughout.

The quantities on this recipe are easily adjustable. I've made it with 1-1/2 cups quinoa on mornings when I want a bigger breakfast without adjusting any other quantities. If you used 2 cups quinoa then you would need to double the oil, nuts, dates, and spices. If you like it sweeter you can increase the maple syrup, but it really doesn't take much at all to make it pretty sweet, especially with the dates.

You can serve this as is, with milk, or with yogurt. It's a really nice way to fill the house with warm, fall spices!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Mocha Frappe - The Lighter Version

Ever since we left to live full time on the boat, mocha frappes were a routine version of coffee for us. It was just too hot to drink hot coffee most of the time that close to the equator. My old version included 1/2 & 1/2 or cream and was decidedly un-Noom-ly. I've since developed a much lower calorie version of it and in the summer heat here in St. Louis I have it at least several times a week. I've experimented with cashew milk and hemp milk but the almond gives it the best flavor. I have also used regular skim milk but it doubles the calories since almond milk is only 40 calories per cup. If you have more calories to spare, then you can use other milks. This makes a tall milkshake-sized glass.

Ingredients:

1 cup of almond milk, unsweetened
1/4 cup of cacao powder
Sweetener of choice to taste (I use Swerve but Stevia or Monk fruit or a blend of the two would work)
9-10 frozen coffee cubes (I freeze strong coffee in ice cube trays then pop them out and store them in a gallon ziploc in the freezer)

Directions:

Put all the ingredients in a Magic Bullet or blender and pulse until the ice is broken up then run full speed till slushy. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Reinventing Comfort Food

When I first started this blog it was while we were cruising on our 42-foot sailboat and the idea was to find ways to make the experience of living on a boat as comfortable as our home had been. This included all the comfort foods that I was fond of making.

The only problem with this is that I succeeded a bit too well and ended up putting on a huge amount of weight. So, the focus of the blog became how to prepare healthy foods in a boat galley (or at home if you were land-bound.) I've lost all the weight and I'm in a maintenance mode now but I'm still learning a lot about how to deal with the emotional traps that spawned the need for comfort foods in the first place. So after a recent bout of super stressful emotions (read: Hurricane Dorian pointed directly at my boat and my kids' boat) I was immediately drawn to the old habits of ingesting comfort food to stave off the stress.

What I noticed, though, was that through the training of the last few months on Noom I was able to find healthier, lower calorie options that still satisfied the need I was feeling. So when I normally would have reached for a huge dish of high-calorie ice cream (like salted caramel) paired with a half dozen chocolate chip cookies and a bowl of trail mix (499+900+ 680=2079 calories) I instead reached for a cup of homemade whipped cream (the real stuff) sweetened with a little Swerve and 2 of the Aldi chocolate pizelles (26 calories each) which I broke into 6 pieces each and scooped the whipped cream with and 2 of Aldi's Choceur chocolate covered almonds with coconut (262 calories total.) I'm still dealing with the stress eating today, and what I really craved was chocolate pudding. I made a batch with skim milk, corn starch, cocoa, and Swerve and it was delightful and totally took care of the cravings. 285 calories for two full cups of it. For the most part I'm able to deal with stress by going for a walk or bike ride, and my goal is to eliminate stress eating altogether in favor of those solutions, but in the meantime I was pretty happy to have curbed it within my daily calorie budget.

You can retrain your tastes

Over the last few months I've also found that you can retrain your tastes. Things that I craved before I can now either pass over or eat much less and be satisfied. Last night I had a couple cups of watermelon cubes instead of ice cream as a dessert. It was delightful. I'm eating much less meat and many more vegetables. Nonfat yogurt tastes great as a sour cream or mayo substitute for me in chicken or egg salad or on tacos. I have a bag of Dove dark chocolate in the fridge that will take me two months to eat because one or two pieces are all I need to be satisfied. All of these things would not have been the case a few months ago.
Greek nonfat yogurt for sour cream on chili

So identify the comfort food that you simply don't want to do without and start the process of reinventing it.

It is possible to reinvent the comfort food.

My comfort foods are usually sweet in nature. My mom always made me tapioca pudding when I'd had a bad day or was sick. We ate ice cream as a family every night while watching TV (the reason I was an obese child.) And I am a chocoholic. As a result, most of my comfort food conversions are on the sweet end.

I've found I can make a wonderful granola topping for my yogurt by lightly toasting a quarter cup of old fashioned oats in a teaspoon of butter then melting one Dove Dark chocolate Promises piece in it and letting it cool. Then I chop up a couple frozen cherries, stir them into a half cup of non-fat greek yogurt with a little vanilla, and top with the granola. 256 calories.

I can make a bakery-quality pastry by stacking 2 sheets of phyllo dough and brushing them with a teaspoon of melted butter then fold the sheets in half. I very thinly slice a half of an apple and pile that in the middle. I sprinkle the apple with a teaspoon of cinnamon sugar then fold it up like a burrito and lay it fold side down on some parchment paper on a baking sheet. I brush another teaspoon of butter on top and bake it at 350 till it's golden brown and the apples are tender. After it cools, I make a glaze drizzle out of powdered sugar and almond milk and vanilla. 270 Calories for a big delicious flaky pastry. You can also get the calories lower by using Swerve in place of the sugar.

My microwave popcorn popper
I've found that by buying regular popcorn kernels (on the yellow Noom list), spraying the pan with coconut baking spray and adding 1 teaspoon of maple syrup before popping it, it makes a wonderful kettle corn. 140 calories for almost 4 cups.

I have a real soft spot for mocha frapuccinos. I've come up with a very good substitute. I freeze very strong coffee in ice cube trays. I take 10 cubes, a cup of almond milk, a 1/4 cup of cacao powder and a little Swerve brown sugar and vanilla. I beat this in my Magic Bullet blender until its slushy. 88 calories for a really big milkshake sized glass.

The one comfort food I've had to stay away from for the moment is bread. Homemade bread is my nemesis. Having that whole loaf there warm from the oven is just more than I have the strength to limit. I do allow myself a baguette when we go to Panera Bread, because it's a single serving and limited in calories. I'm not a huge one for casserole comfort foods, but these too can be modified. Use whole wheat macaroni, almond milk and lite cheese for your mac and cheese. I've also posted recipes for stuffed peppers, multiple soups, pancakes, and many desserts in the sidebar here.

If you have more ideas or want help trying to convert your favorite comfort food, please post them in the comments. Then enjoy!






Thursday, June 13, 2019

Dark Chocolate Covered Cherries

I recently picked up a bag of organic frozen sweet cherries which are delightful just by themselves right out of the freezer (at 2.25 calories each) and I've also been chopping them and adding them to my plain Greek yogurt which is just too wonderful to describe. But...I'm always looking for healthy recipes that include dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is one of those treats that really satisfies me with small quantities because it's so rich. I also find that treats that are frozen are much easier for me to control portion sizes. So today I got this really bright idea to melt some dark chocolate chips and coconut oil and to dip the frozen cherries in it. Heaven in a bite, let me tell you. So if  you're looking for a little treat after dinner, at 25 calories each these fit the bill perfectly.

I used the Lilly's no sugar added mini chips because I had them in the freezer. To be honest, they're not my favorite brand. I usually use the Enjoy Life chips even though they're higher in calories because they just taste much better and they don't have any weird added ingredients. Whatever chocolate you use, just be sure to adjust the calorie content of them.

The cherries I used are the Great Value organic frozen ones from Walmart but any organic sweet cherries will work.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chocolate chips of your choice
2 tsp coconut oil
35 frozen sweet cherries


Directions:

Line a small cookie sheet with parchment.

Melt chocolate chips and coconut oil in the top of a double boiler. If you don't have a double boiler then use a small pan over another smaller pan with warm water in the bottom pan. Be sure to use low heat. Too hot, and the chocolate will congeal.

Spear a cherry with a skewer and dip it in the chocolate. Tap the side of the pan to knock off excess. Push the cherry off onto the parchment.

Repeat with all the cherries. You will have to use a rubber spatula at the end to scrape the chocolate off the pan and kind of smear it on the last couple cherries.

Place the pan in the freezer to firm the chocolate and then store in a plastic container. These are 16 calories each with the Lily's chips and 25 each with the Enjoy Life ones. They are delightful!


Sunday, June 9, 2019

De-lite-ful Blueberry Muffins

Muffins are the one thing that I've really missed since starting Noom. Muffins are one of those things that I'm not satisfied with only one. If I can't have three, I don't want them. And I'm talking normal size muffins here, not those gargantuan things you get in bakeries. So I started looking around for a lite muffin recipe that I could play with.

Most lite muffins that I've made are small, dense, dry, and totally unappealing. I started out with a recipe for 100 Calorie Banana Craisin Muffins from recipes.sparkpeople.com but by the time I got to today's version, it's completely different. So without further adieu, here is the best lite blueberry muffin I've ever had.

De-lite-ful Blueberry Muffins - 89 calories each (yes you read that right)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup packed Swerve brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 medium bananas, mashed: 1 cup
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup egg whites (I used the refrigerated box kind)
1 cup fresh or frozen thawed blueberries

Directions:

Mix the sugar, soda, salt, cinnamon and flour in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine well and remove any sugar lumps.

Mash bananas in small bowl and add applesauce, milk, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir quickly just to combine. Fold in egg whites till no white streaks remain. Stir in blueberries.

Fill 12 muffin tins lined with papers. You will have to pile it up in the middle and you will think they are too full but these muffins don't rise a lot so it's fine. Bake 375° for 15-20 minutes or till golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. At 15 minutes mine were done so don't overbake these. Remove to cooling rack immediately. Let cool slightly before serving.

Notes: Be sure to use whole wheat pastry flour. If you use regular whole wheat flour they will be more dense. If you don't have any, you can reduce the flour by a tablespoon or two and be sure to sift.

Use very ripe bananas for the sweetness. I ran short 2 tablespoons and filled the rest of the cup with greek yogurt which worked great.

Work quickly in your mixing as overmixing causes muffins to be tough.

You can use regular 1% milk but you have to adjust the calories. I like the nutty taste that almond milk gives these.

If you don't like sugar substitutes, you can replace with real sugar, just add the calories to the total. I don't use sugar substitutes that often but I really like the Swerve brown sugar. It tastes and behaves exactly like real brown sugar and it's naturally sourced from plants.





Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Noom: An in-depth 16-week Review








It's hard to believe that I've been working on the Noom lifestyle change program for 16 weeks now. The time has flown by, not entirely due to Noom, but also to the fact that we've moved into a new apartment, helped our daughter fix up, pack, and clean their house that they sold, helped them move into their new house, and then moved out of our apartment and into the carriage house above the garage in our daughter's new home. All in 16 weeks.


The initial Noom program is 16 weeks in length. During that time, the NoomNerds (yes it's a real term) taught me about not only how and what to eat, but why I eat the things that I do. Each morning I open the Noom app and am presented with a screen for today. It includes a tab to weigh in (something you do every morning), a tab to log your meals for the day using their food database, and a couple tabs of lessons, or tasks, to complete. In the beginning, the lessons are light-hearted and a bit on the high school cheer leader-ish rah rah side, a point that almost led me not to sign up after my two-week free trial. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not the rah-rah cheerleader type. I realize the seriousness of being overweight, and I want professional help to deal with it. But...at the end of the two week trial period I was down 6.2 pounds so I decided to sign up and stick with it. The cost for the 16 weeks was $129. I measured that against my previous weight loss program through Weight Watchers, where I am a lifetime member, and it would have totaled $203. So I took the plunge. I'm glad I stuck with it because as you progress through the weeks the approach becomes less cheerleader-ish and more serious. If you were to find professional counseling with the same content, you wouldn't find even one session of this quality of counseling for the price you're paying for 16 weeks of Noom.

The early lessons help you to form your Big Picture: your end goal, why you want to attain that goal, and how your life will be different as a result. Right off the bat your focus is led inward to self reflection rather than an obsession with popular body image or scale numbers. There are lessons that help you to identify what type of eater you are, types of triggers and what trigger causes you to overeat, unhealthy thought distortions and healthy ways to measure success.

Right at the beginning you're paired with an individual coach. The coach checks in with you once a week, but he/she is available to you via the Noom message app whenever you need help. There is usually a delay in response time due to the fact that most of these folks have other jobs as well, but I never had a time when I felt like a question or need wasn't answered. I did have one issue early on with the coaching system. The individual coaches are clearly following a script in their coaching and a lot of times the script just didn't apply to me. I understand the need for some cross-program standardization in their individual coaching, but there needs to be more individual shaping of the coaching depending on the individual in the program. To explain this better, the average person signing up for Noom appears to be middle-aged and in the prime of their high-stress work environment. I, on the other hand, am retired, so I have virtually no stress in my life at all. In addition, I'm in the absolute perfect environment to have success on this program. I have all the time in the world to research, plan, shop, and prepare healthy food. I have excellent sources of healthy food close by.  I have 7 grandkids within shouting distance to walk with and get lots of exercise. I have an incredibly supportive spouse. So my needs are not about stress, but about persistence. As we progressed along, my coach began to get to know my needs and help was more appropriate, so all is well now and I find her support very valuable.

At the end of the two-week free trial you are placed in a group of people who started at the same time. My group consisted of about 50 people, but only about 20 actually ever participated in the group messaging. Our group is incredibly supportive, full of ideas, has a great sense of humor, and a very talented group coach. It has been a tremendously positive experience, but I understand from a few other folks that their groups are not quite as good, so this may not be a universal experience. The absolute key to a successful group is kindness, encouragement and respect. If you can't be kind, encourage those not like you, and respect the fact that different things work for different people, then be silent. At the beginning of our group we had one member that was caustic, was deeply critical of anyone who was doing different things than what she thought was the best way. It got so bad that the offending member had to be transferred out. If you find you're in a similar situation, don't hesitate to be proactive and to get with your individual coach about the issue so they can take care of it before it gets out of hand.

Now, a word to the Noom app. This is my one and only serious gripe with Noom. Their technology is very, very behind the times. The messaging app has a few major flaws, such as the fact that there are no "threads," just a running conversation. This makes it almost impossible to locate a previous message that you wanted to save (like a link to a recipe online or something.) There is also a serious flaw in the messages read function. If you go into the group conversation the new messages will have a NEW flag on them and new comments will be highlighted in red. All good so far, but if you only read the first one and then have to go do something else and leave the screen, when you come back all the new messages will no longer be flagged new. It appears that the NEW function is per entry into the conversation, not on a message-by-message basis. With so many really good messaging platforms out there it's hard to believe that they couldn't find one to use that allows threads and flagging based on individual messages. Granted, I'm a techie, but I hear a lot of other people complaining about the same issue.

The second technological issue is with the food database. While there are some good aspects to it like being able to save a meal that you eat frequently, I've found a ton of errors in the database itself. A huge percentage of brand-specific foods that I log are not correct according to the package I'm looking at and generic foods are not specific enough in their description. Since I've found over 100g difference in some of the apples that I eat, I've taken to weighing each one and logging by grams rather than just "1 apple." Don't depend on the barcode scanner either without verifying the calories on the label of the product. A huge percentage of them are wrong. Another very minor issue is that if you plan all of your meals in the morning, you have to go all the way back out to the main menu between each meal which is several screens. There should be a function that allows you to save that meal and enter the next, a suggestion I've made and has been forwarded to the appropriate people.

Another very minor issue for me was the lack of program instruction in the beginning. There was very little instruction on how to use the food database and it was weeks before I found out I could save my meals. I was almost to the end of the sixteen weeks before I found out I could share a meal to the group.  It took days before I even figured out I could log my exercise. There are a lot of things that make the journey easier and I feel like there should be a tutorial that shows you all of these things. There is a help section in the menu but it's not very complete or intuitive. A simple tutorial with all of the shortcuts would be extremely helpful. I suspect that you could find most of these shortcuts given the time, but in the beginning you are so overwhelmed by what you're learning that it's hard to spend hours a day playing with obscure buttons to see what they do. I also felt a little lost as I approached the end of the sixteen weeks. I needed more information on what would happen if I did or did not sign up for another session so I could make an informed decision, help I needed without asking a hundred questions of my coach.

One of the most profound differences between Noom and any other method I've used to lose weight is the fact that Noom is not a diet program. It's a lifestyle change program. While they will teach you how to choose foods that will benefit your overall health, they don't specify what foods. They stress balance and variety, but one whole week of lessons is dedicated to looking at different food choices like low carb, high protein, vegetarian, vegan, intermittent fasting...you name it. The emphasis is in getting away from labeling food as "good" or "bad" and in saying "I choose to or not to eat such and such." The emphasis is on balanced, whole health including food, activity and happiness. The other huge difference is that the program is designed to train you to be able to do it on your own. No lifetime membership required here. They want you to build good habits, to learn to make good choices, to better your health and happiness and then....they kick you free. Yes, you heard me right. I'ts a scary prospect, a bit like I'm sure little birds feel when they get thrust from the cozy nest, but let's face it folks. We're grownups and we can learn to do this without somebody monitoring our weight and progress with a weekly meeting. Not to say you're left without support if you need it. The relationships that you form with your group members go on after you leave. We've all exchanged emails and I formed a closed group on Facebook so we can keep in touch.

So at the end of my first sixteen-week session, and as I sign up for another sixteen-week session to cement these new habits over a maintenance period, what's my takeaway?

In sixteen weeks I...

lost 35.4 pounds
took 1,171941 steps
walked 506 miles
climbed 2,088 floors of stairs
learned to take the stairs instead of the elevator
learned to correctly estimate portions
learned to change my all-or-nothing approach to success
made my husband a much happier home environment

What makes Noom different? Because it's not a diet. It's a course in YOU.

It's important to note that if you don't like to take an honest look at your motivations then this program will not likely work for you.

It takes about an hour a day for me to work through the tasks and to log my meals. Then there's the increased exercise which takes about another hour a day for me. So if you want to try Noom, be sure that you have the time to properly commit to it, and the desire for genuine success, even if it means discovering some things about yourself that you don't really like.

Six months ago I would never have believed you if you had said I would be here at my goal weight again. I had given up hope, pretty settled in the belief that I would be fat the rest of my life. I was very unhappy with my body, with myself and my lack of ability to fix this. So to say that on this day at the end of my sixteen weeks I am a different person is an accomplishment of huge proportions. So the final end-all be-all is the question, "Would I recommend Noom to someone else?" And to this I can only answer an emphatic "Yes!"