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Does Noom Spell Doom for the Diet Industry?

Noom is an app and a program that climbed into the top trends for diet and nutrition searches on Google in 2018. So now it’s putting considerable pressure on the old guard of the diet industry at a time when consumers have very mixed feelings about that business.

Weight Watchers is now WW – Wellness that Works. No more fixation on weight, right? Nutrisystem was never burdened with any form of the D-word. Diet is a four-letter boomer word.

Health and Fitness for Millennials

Losing weight is no real biggie. People can tell you that they’ve done it over and over again. You can lose a little (usually five to ten percent) by adjusting your diet. For the short term, just about any diet will do. But the problem has always been, then what?

Noom took root with younger consumers by looking beyond the short term with a simple promise: Stop dieting, get lifelong results. For a generation growing up in an environment that’s pushing body weights higher than ever, this resonated.

Noom promises to bring behavioral science to to the problem of coping with an environment that works against our aspirations for  a healthy life. A recent study tells us that they have a pretty solid nutritional database. Another recent study finds promise in this tool. And CDC recently granted full recognition to Noom for delivering the Diabetes Prevention Program.

But certainly, nobody should expect any miracles. And as a matter of fact, Noom’s “lifelong results” promise seems mighty close to a claim of “permanent weight loss.” The FTC calls that a “red flag” for false promises. Permanent weight loss almost never happens.

Pressure on Weight Watchers

Noom’s success coincides with tremendous pressure on the WW stock price. It’s down by more than 80 percent since last summer. Observers are chalking it up in part to poor execution of the WW rebranding last fall. Everyone knows Weight Watchers. WW? Not so much. There’s never a good time to botch something as important as an iconic brand. But when you have a clever upstart like Noom nipping at your heels, you have even less margin for error.

On top of competitive pressure and rebranding woes, you have very fickle consumers. Sure, they’re into body positivity and healthy eating. But they’re also hot on losing weight with anything linked to the keto diet concept right now. It’s yet another strategy for losing weight in the short term. One more factor that leaves WW with less margin for error.

Nutrisystem Sidesteps the Mess

Nutrisystem appears to have sidestepped a bit of this mess. Acquired by Tivity Health late last year, it’s now part of a larger organization that sells the SilverSneakers and other fitness programs. These two organizations are busy looking for synergy between nutrition and fitness.

Not a bad strategy for coping with fickle consumer whims.

Click here, and here for further perspective on Noom and the trends surrounding it. For perspective on the origins of this company, click here.

Smartphone Latte, photograph © John Beans /

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April 17, 2019

4 Responses to “Does Noom Spell Doom for the Diet Industry?”

  1. April 17, 2019 at 8:59 am, Susan Burke March said:

    Wow, it took about 20 years to report about this “new” online weight management phenomenon. Does online help? Maybe! As a counselor, I’ve been working with patients online for…how long? Some patients LOVE the accountability and ability to understand how to “see” how modify their meals to achieve some nutritional goals – need more fiber? What if you’d eaten an orange instead of drinking that orange juice? What would your day look like if you’d skipped that donut and had whole wheat toast with avocado instead? Let’s get together soon and strategize. Research shows that the act of “writing down” your meals and activities helps change behavior for the healthier, and that includes online. LOL! I feel like a dinosaur.

    • April 17, 2019 at 11:38 am, Ted said:

      You’re a sage, not a dinosaur, Susan.

  2. April 17, 2019 at 2:06 pm, Brian Edwards MD said:

    I haven’t read all your links
    In their database do they have young people reach BMI > 30 who maintained a 10% weight loss for 5 years?

    The best advice: DON’T EVER GET FAT.

    • April 18, 2019 at 4:56 am, Ted said:

      Good idea. Unfortunately, that’s not especially helpful advice for most adults. But it is a good summation of our policies to address obesity.