Digital Health Changed My Life
I am obese, according to the standard body mass index (BMI) calculator. So is about 42% of the U.S. adult population.
But not for long…
As a 6’1” man, I need to be under 227 pounds to get my BMI under 30. (A BMI of 30 is considered overweight, but not obese.)
As a younger man, that BMI didn’t bother me. I surfed, hiked, swam and traveled with ease. Sometimes a snug pair of pants or shirt would irk me, but not enough to do anything about it. That is, until I hit 40 and really started slowing down.
That’s when the risks of obesity-related diseases began to creep in. Obese adults are 80 times more likely to develop diabetes. Obesity increases the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis and sleep apnea.
I hit 250 pounds and didn’t like it. I counted calories and exercised more. I dropped 20 pounds. It felt great.
But then I fell off the wagon. Travel, work and raising kids interfered. Before I knew it, I was up to 255 pounds. And I just settled in … for a decade.
My doctor would pat me on the back on my way out of his office and say, “Lose 20 pounds, OK?”
I’d assure him that was the plan. I walked regularly, I went to the YMCA, and I surfed whenever there were waves.
I never dieted because I hate diets. They don’t work if you don’t keep with them. And I’m unwilling to sacrifice good food.
It’s fine, I told myself. I’m fine…
But then the pandemic hit. Stress levels soared, and gyms closed. The authorities closed all the outdoor recreation areas near me as well. During the lockdown, we decided to focus on things we loved. And in my house, that’s cooking.
We made big, fancy meals. We baked. And we ate.
You can see where this is going. I hit 265 pounds quickly. A friend’s picture of me surfing during that period hit home. Vanity is tough.
At the same time, a friend of ours became a regular sight walking past my house every day. I’d see her and visit some days. My wife told me that our friend was trying this new weight-loss program called Noom.
I wrote it off as another fad diet and didn’t think anything of it.
My Doctor’s Wake-up Call
But my friend kept walking … and losing weight.
At my December annual physical, my doctor had some harsher words for me: Lose weight or die.
You see, my family history is unkind to fat men over 60. And by December 2020, it was clear that COVID-19 was much more dangerous to folks with a BMI over 30. A simple look in the mirror finally kicked me over the edge.
I went to the app store, downloaded Noom, and bought a subscription.
That was December 29, 2020. I weighed 270 pounds. My BMI was 35.6.
I found Noom an innovative approach to weight loss. It’s not a diet. It’s a science and psychology-based approach to weight loss.
Noom focuses on changing behavior to get people to lead healthier lives. According to its website:
We’ve published research in internationally recognized journals such as Nature and British Medical Journal (BMJ), which has shown that 64% of Noom users lost 5% or more of body weight, reducing their risk of diabetes and other conditions.
In April 2017, Noom’s program received full recognition by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It was the first virtual provider to achieve that.
When I signed up, the app assigned me a coach, Olivia. She messages me to see how I’m doing. She checks in and offers help every few days.
It put me in a group of other folks using Noom. The app encourages discussion, prompting us to post milestones and comments on a message board.
The app also walks us through a series of short information sessions that cover a broad array of topics — nutrition, psychology, behavior, and health, all related to weight loss.
I found the module on hormones incredibly useful. It discussed how our bodies fight back against losing weight. It floods us with hormones that tell us to eat, which is one reason most diets fail.
New Digital Health Apps Sector
Noom is an example of a new sector of companies using digital applications to improve our health. It’s called “digital health,” and it’s booming.
Noom cofounder and CEO Saeju Jeong said:
Noom is committed to leveraging our mobile behavior change programs to help millions of people around the world suffering from pre-chronic and chronic conditions. Our platform is capable of changing behaviors and delivering meaningful, sustainable health outcomes at a large scale.
The company claims success with over 45 million users. I’m now one of them. My bathroom scale read 228 pounds today. That’s 42 pounds lost in under four months.
I admit that I embraced the challenge. I use a kitchen scale for portions and log my meals every day.
But I didn’t increase my exercise regimen at all. I walk a couple of times a week, and I swim laps for half an hour a couple of times a week. But I didn’t rejoin the gym after lockdown ended.
Digital health applications like Noom make transformations like mine easy.
And while Noom isn’t public yet, this is a booming sector for investors. I’m keeping an eye on Noom for its initial public offering (IPO) because I had so much success with it.
For the good!