Since early 2020, it has been tougher than ever to take care of ourselves. Everyone is dealing with added stress, anxiety, and pressures—some to a much greater degree than others. Even if you and your family are all healthy and you still have a job, chances are good that you’re working from home, having kids go to school remotely. All that extra stress makes it much harder to focus on taking care of ourselves. A Gallup poll shows that more than half of all Americans, 54 percent, have a desire to lose weight. If you decide that losing weight is right for you, a great place to get help and support is with a weight loss app and program. Two popular options are Noom, which is a relative newcomer to the space, and WW, formerly WeightWatchers.
Noom and WW are quite different. Their programs have different strengths and weaknesses. Their communities and coaches provide support in different ways. Noom has a self-actualization bent to it, helping you develop greater self-awareness through education to break bad habits you have related to food and eating. WW is all about getting with the program.
Here, we put the two programs head-to-head to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each one and help you decide which is best for you.
Noom takes a cognitive behavioral therapy approach to weight loss.
What Do Noom and WW’s Diet Plans Offer?
First of all, let’s clear up one thing: Noom and WW share one major ideological principle: dieting doesn’t work. Changing what you eat doesn’t address other issues related to how you eat and why.
Noom’s emphasis is on psychology (specifically cognitive behavior therapy), with a little bit of biology and physiology thrown in. How do you think and feel about eating? Why? What’s happening in your body’s chemistry to influence those thoughts and feelings? It’s a lot about learning who you are in relation to this information. In addition to reading, the Noom program has you log all the foods you eat and try to keep your intake within a range that it sets for you. You also write down your goals and record your weight consistently. But the crux is education and self-awareness. You learn through short readings how psychology and behavioral psychology play a part in weight loss. The readings are enjoyable and give you a broad range of information, complete with references should you want to double-check any facts.
WW’s signature element is a branded SmartPoints system. It has used some form of this points-based has had its Points-based program for decades, tweaking it over time to keep up with the latest trends. Today, it’s more focused on health than being svelte. Like Noom, it also asks you to do weigh-ins and incorporates psychology, but not nearly to the same extent. Rather than count calories, WW has you monitor points. Every food and meal gets assigned a number of points, including some foods that are zero, meaning you can eat as much of them as you like. The idea is to eat no more than what your points allow. Because not every day is ideal, you also get an allotment of weekly points to help you balance out times when you go over the daily limit.
The most recent change in the WW program has been to create three plans within the point system, called Green, Blue, and Purple. The Green group gets the most SmartPoints, but their list of Zero Points foods is the smallest. The Purple group gets the fewest SmartPoints, but their list of ZeroPoints foods is nearly three times as long as Green’s. Blue is somewhere in the middle and used to be called Freestyle SmartPoints.
WW is filled with insider lingo, keychains that you earn, and WW-branded rewards, which can feel cultish at times. The SmartPoints system can also be confusing if you’re accustomed to calories or some other standardized method. Plus, to make it easier to count SmartPoints, WW sells a whole line of prepared meals and snacks. Whether you find that convenient or an aggressive upsell may depend on your outlook.
Winner: Tie. Noom is better for people who want to find their own way guided by information and WW is better for people who like a lot of rules and a sense of belonging to a group
You’ll see plenty of terms like “keystone” and “unprocess” in WW, which has developed its own terminology surrounding eating and weight loss.
How You Access Your Programs on Noom and WW?
Both Noom and WW have mobile apps for Android and Apple mobile devices. WW, however, also lets you log in from a web browser. If you spend a large portion of your day in front of a computer, having web access can be a big value-add because weight management programs require constant check-ins. People often find that engaging repeatedly with the program throughout the day helps them stick with it. If you are already sitting in front of a computer working, it’s not hard to pop open a fresh tab and get some support or log the foods you ate for lunch or plan your dinner, which you can do with WW. With Noom, you must pick up your mobile device.
While Noom is mobile-only, the app is sticky. You need to spend at least five minutes in the app every day to be successful. It’s easy because each day you get a list of tasks, which includes logging the foods you eat, reading short articles, and taking quizzes. So Noom gives you specific reasons to pick up the app throughout the day. WW’s app doesn’t have quite the same compelling nature. Noom does have a limited website used for creating a new account and managing your payments. You cannot access your program from this site, however.
WW helps you set your goal and gives you a plan.
What Are the In-App Experiences Like?
Mobile apps can bring a lot of value to a weight loss program. They give you instant access to what you need to remain committed. It includes logging what you eat and the physical activity you do, planning meals, checking your daily or weekly consumption, and looking to a community or coach for support when you need it.
Noom has a much better user experience overall than WW. The app is easy to navigate. Because Noom is only available as a mobile app, everything about it was built intentionally for mobile devices. Articles are never presented as one long scrolling block of text but rather spread out over pages with images and graphs to help break it up. The app is also sticky in the sense that Noom gives you several reasons to pick it up a few times each day. Compared with WW, Noom’s app seems more contemporary.
WW’s app is busier. You get the sense that the content was originally displayed on the web and only later ported over into a mobile app. As a result, it doesn’t have a mobile-first feel. Finding what you need takes time. The longer you use the app, the more you uncover, although the experience would be better if you felt a more immediate connection with everything there is to explore.
Noom’s gamification includes plenty of quizzes about its daily readings.
How Much Do They Cost?
Do not expect to see consistent prices in weight loss plans. They vary dramatically for several reasons. For one, when companies don’t sell a physical product, they can randomly offer different prices as a way to test what they can charge. Second, subscription-based products often show you one price at the start, then offer a discounted rate once you’ve become more familiar with the product, like after reading a few welcome screens. Finally, you often get a better rate when you pay for a long commitment up front, such as a six-month membership, rather than a monthly one.
Noom offers only one plan, though you can decide how many months you want to commit to, and the per-month rate varies based on the length of your membership. Noom’s prices aren’t listed anywhere that’s easy to find during the signup process. There is a support page with prices, although they may or may not match the offers you see in the app. In general, the cost is between $129 and $150 for three months. As of this writing, the in-app offer was $99 for three months. There’s a $20 starter fee but it’s almost always waived. When you sign up, you pay separately for your first two weeks, and you get to decide how much. The minimum is $1. Since we first tested Noom in 2019, the offers have varied with the price range typically falling between $17 and $50 per month.
WW’s rates vary, too. You have four plan types to choose from: Digital (from about $20 per month), Digital 360 ($29.95 per month), Unlimited Workshop + Digital (roughly $45 per month; prices may vary by region), and 1-on-1 Coaching + Digital ($59.95 per month). Digital is an app-only experience with some limitations. Digital 360 adds more access to coaches and one-demand videos and podcasts. Unlimited Workshop + Digital adds group meetings. The last tier, 1-on-1 Coaching + Digital includes one-on-one access to a personal coach. For all plans, there’s a $20 signup fee that’s typically waived—the same as with Noom—and you can expect to see better offers if you pay for multiple months at a time.
In the end, the pricing is so different (and so variable) for these two services that it’s really not possible to say which is better. It depends on which options you pick, and the time you’re prepared to commit to a service.
WW breaks your food down by the number of SmartPoints they cost from your total budget for the day.
What Kind of Coaching Do Noom and WW Offer to Help You Lose Weight?
When it comes to coaching, the difference between Noom and WW is that one includes an underwhelming coaching experience and the other has coaching only if you pay for it.
With Noom, you get a Goal Specialist and a Group Coach, but not during your first few weeks. They come later, meaning if you sign up for a low-cost trial of a few weeks, you don’t get the coaching experience at all.
The Group Coach is someone assigned to oversee your support group. This person is not a personal coach. The Goal Specialist is more like a personal coach, although they interact with you in a very limited way. When we tested Noom, it was the most disappointing part of the experience. The Goal Specialist interacts with you only via in-app text message and only about once a week. If you’re imagining someone who will check in on you frequently or send you immediate words of support when you’re on the brink of making a bad eating decision, you won’t get it here. You might get help of that kind from your support group, however, depending on how engaged they are and whether they’re in your time zone.
With WW, you get coaching, but the level of involvement varies by the type of account you have. All WW members can message a coach any time in the app or via the website to ask questions or get support. When you message a coach this way, you get paired with whoever is available. In other words, it’s not a personal coach who gets to know you. If you want a personal coach, you can get one with the 1-on-1 Coaching + Digital plan, which is the most expensive plan type. With that plan, your coach talks with you by phone weekly, so you can actually have a discussion in real time. Your coach also develops a personalized action plan for you. The mid-level plans include access to a group coach. Because WW offers four plan types, you can choose the level of coaching that you need.
Both WW and Noom offer active communities of other people who are on a weight management journey. In both cases, they are integral parts of the program. How they work couldn’t be more different, however. WW lets you join as many online community groups as you want. Noom assigns you to a small group, and you only have interactions with whoever happens to be in that bunch.
With Noom, you are assigned to a small group of people who joined Noom at roughly the same time that you did. You don’t get assigned to a group during your first few weeks either, meaning you only get a group after you pay for at least a one-month commitment. The group is fairly random, and your experience depends entirely on its makeup.
With an enormous number of members, WW is well set up to offer a wide variety of groups. You can join as many as you like. There are groups based on which WW eating program you’re in (for example, the Purple group), profession (nurses, teachers), age range, how long you’ve been a WW member, how much weight you’ve lost, geographical region, and dietary preferences (gluten-free, vegan, halal). There are also groups for nursing moms, brides-to-be, veterans, Black women, and LGBTQ+ people, and many others. It’s not uncommon to see people sharing raw, emotional stories about their lives. If you’re looking for community support to lose weight, WW is outstanding.
What’s the Best Weight Loss Program?
Noom and WW couldn’t be more different—which is good! The weight loss techniques that work for one person might not be the best fit for another. Based purely on the contests above, WW wins, with two victories to Noom’s one. Note, however, that there are also three ties—these services are extremely close when it comes to excellence in weight loss. That said, their approaches are completely different. Which one is right for you likely depends more on which approach appeals to you more. Healthy weight-loss and weight management are, after all, all about sticking with it, and a service you like is a service you’ll stick with.
If you need a lot of guidance, support, and a sense of belonging, WW is probably a better weight loss program for you. If the way to change your relationship to food and eating is through an education in psychological and behavioral science, plus a well-designed app that easily gets you to pick it up a few times a day to stick with it, then Noom is a better choice.
While you’re thinking about making positive changes in your eating habits, you might also want to read our Ultimate Guide to Health and Fitness Tech, which covers everything from fitness apps to sleep technology to smart home gyms.
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