Noom vs. Weight Watchers: What’s the Difference?
Published on March 10, 2020
Last updated April 21, 2020
Noom and WW (formerly Weight Watchers) are two trendy diets that have established their place as strongholds in the wellness and weightloss industries. These two diets are both scientifically proven to help people lose weight, though they use different approaches and focus on different aspects of healthy living. This guide covers the differences and similarities between Noom and WW, as well as each diet’s unique pros and cons.
What is Noom?
Noom is a weight loss program that uses a behavior-change approach to healthy living. The company started as a fitness-tracking app back in 2009 but it wasn’t until 2016 did it start to evolve into the massive online-only, membership-based program that it is today.
Noom is the only such program to have received official recognition and support by a U.S. health agency: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognize Noom’s diabetes prevention plan as the only fully mobile plan that clinically works.
Noom starts you off with a quick health evaluation that asks about your age, height, weight, diet, exercise level, and other lifestyle factors. Then, it creates a profile and plan for you based on your goals and answers to questions like, “Do you find yourself needing outside motivation when you feel overwhelmed?”
The plans are based on behavior-change psychology and, instead of focusing on counting calories or restricting foods, they focus on changing the way you think about your diet. Everything is done through a mobile app and you get 24-hour access to a health coach.
What is Weight Watchers?
Weight Watchers has been around since 1963 but rebranded to WW International in 2018. It uses a point-based system for weight loss: Called SmartPoints, the system assigns a point value to foods, drinks and ingredients based on their nutritional value. Examples of zero- or low-point foods include fruits and vegetables, while higher-point foods include candy, soda, and other things of the like.
WW primarily works via a mobile app, but the company does offer live workshops and in-person coaching for a higher price. WW is consistently ranked as one of the best diets by U.S. News & World Report, with the publication praising the flexibility and ease of the program, as well as the no-foods-off-limits focus.
How is Noom different than Weight Watchers?
Noom has been nicknamed “Weight Watchers for millenials,” but the two programs differ in a number of ways. Noom and WW have different weight-loss approaches, different resources, different plans and prices.
WW’s point-based system assigns a numeric value to all foods based on their nutritional value. This SmartPoints system intends to guide people to smarter food choices by assigning healthier foods fewer points and unhealthier foods more points. You get a weekly point budget based on current weight and your goals, and you’re free to eat whatever you want so long as you don’t surpass that budget.
Noom, on the other hand, uses a color-based approach. Noom groups foods into three categories — green, yellow and red — and encourages you to choose foods mainly from the green and yellow groups. The green group includes items such as produce and whole grains; the yellow group includes items such as lean protein and dairy; and the red group includes snack foods, red meat, alcohol and fatty foods.
Noom offers two plans: The Healthy Weight Program and the Diabetes Prevention Program. Both plans are customized based on the questionnaire you answer while creating your Noom account. The plans span 16 weeks and thereafter the app is focused on weight maintenance.
WW offers a tiered plan system with three weight-loss plans: digital only, digital plus workshops, and digital plus personal coaching. The digital-only plan involves use of the app and 24/7 online chat support; the workshops are in-person sessions that occur once a week and add another element of support and guidance to the digital plan; and the personal coaching involves one-on-one support through weekly phone calls and unlimited messages.
Unlike Noom, WW plans don’t have an end date — instead, your plan continues until you cancel your subscription.
Both Noom and WW offer 24/7 access to a health coach. On Noom, all contact with coaches is through the app. The personal coach you’re assigned is only available during normal business hours, so if you reach out at night or early in the morning, you’ll likely be talking with someone who doesn’t know anything about your diet or lifestyle.
Noom’s health coaches are certified through a four-week program called “Noomiversity.” This program is approved by the The National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC), but that doesn’t mean that all of Noom’s coaches are qualified to provide meal plans or nutritional advice for all conditions: It takes much more than four weeks to learn the ins and outs of nutrition, physiology, and psychology, and there’s no requirement for Noom coaches to have other certifications, licenses or degrees.
WW’s digital coaching system is similar to Noom’s, with all contact happening through a secure messaging platform. Many WW coaches are former WW customers who have their own success stories about the program.
Like Noom, WW does not require these digital coaches to be registered dietitians, doctors, psychologists or other licensed professionals — instead, they’re certified through a program that WW offers. The in-person coaches you can speak with at workshops or as part of the one-on-one coaching plan are also certified through the independent WW coaching program.
So instead of acting as nutritional coaches or registered dietitians, Noom and WW coaches are there mainly to provide motivation and help you stick to your plan.
Noom’s Healthy Weight Program costs $44.99 per month and the Diabetes Prevention Program costs 89.99 per month. Noom doesn’t offer a free version, but if you’re not ready to commit to a plan, you can opt for a 14-day free trial. The app is available in the App Store and Google Play.
WW has a weekly pricing model, with plans ranging from $3.23 per week to $10.39 per week. The standard monthly costs are: $19.95 per month for digital only, $44.95 per month for digital plus live workshops and $54.95 per month for coaching.
If you consider what you get with each plan, the Noom Healthy Weight Program and the WW digital program are the most similar.
Noom pros and cons
All diets inherently come with pros and cons — here are a few of Noom’s most pertinent.
Emphasizes behavior change: Noom’s psychology-based approach is great for people who have struggled to adopt healthier habits in the past.
Focuses on nutrient density: Rather than counting calories or macronutrients, Noom encourages you to choose foods based on their nutritional benefits.
Scientifically proven to work: A number of studies have shown Noom to be an effective weight loss tool, as well as an effective tool for managing diabetes. One study showed that after 12 weeks of using Noom, participants lost an average of 7.5% of their body fat, and after one year, they had maintained a loss of 5.2%
Health coaches might not be experts: Noom’s independent certifying program is only four weeks long and only covers the basics of behavior change psychology. Noom does not require that their coaches are nutrition experts.
No face-to-face option: Noom is fully digital, so it might not be the best fit for you if you enjoy in-person coaching.
Weight Watchers pros and cons
Like Noom, WW has its own list of ups and downs.
Offers a cheaper option: WW’s $19.95 per month digital plan is less expensive than Noom’s $44.99 per month digital plan.
Slow, steady weight loss: WW plans are designed to help you lose weight at the recommended rate of one to two pounds per week. This rate is considered the healthiest and most sustainable.
In-person coaching option: Some people need face-to-face conversations for things to stick. If you prefer that sort of environment, WW’s workshop option provides the opportunity for in-person coaching.
Scientifically proven to work: WW has been studied extensively, and the vast majority of studies point to WW as an effective and sustainable weight loss method. Some research suggests that WW participants are nearly 10 times more likely to drop body fat than participants of other weight loss programs.
Health coaches might not be experts: Like Noom’s coaches, WW coaches are not required to have licenses or degrees in nutrition.
Counting can be tedious: If you hate counting calories, you’ll probably hate counting SmartPoints, too, and might end up quitting WW for this reason.
May inadvertently encourage unhealthy habits: While the SmartPoints system is certainly effective for some people, it may contribute to a strained relationship with food for others. Assigning point values to foods can cause people to label foods as good and bad and feel shame about eating “bad” foods.
Is Noom or Weight Watchers better?
The bottom line is that Noom and WW both work by creating a calorie deficit, and any diet will help you lose weight as long as you burn more calories than you eat each day. Both diets have scientific evidence to support their claims and approaches to weight loss, but keep in mind that much of the available research was commissioned or partly funded by Noom or WW.
You should always choose a diet based on your personal health and fitness goals, your current health status and your level of comfort with the diet’s parameters. For instance, if you have a troubled relationship with food, Noom may be the better choice because of its psychology-based approach. If you tend to be more numbers-focused, WW’s point system might work well for you.
The key to successful weight loss is finding a diet plan that you can stick to. It’s important to choose a plan that doesn’t make you feel overly restricted. Sustainability is the name of the game — even after you reach your goal weight, you should maintain healthy habits for the long term.
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