The Noom Me
A Little History
Since I started blogging for the Trek in 2016, I’ve taken five long section hikes losing, an average of 25 pounds each hike. One might think I was down to about 100 pounds at this point, except I managed to regain the weight I lost in about the time it took to walk it off. The spring of 2019 was particularly bad because I had rotator cuff surgery and my recovery prevented me from working out until well into June. Most of my section hikes have been on the Appalachian Trail. Last summer, I planned to hike the Colorado Trail. While I managed to cover a little more than 200 miles of it, I just wasn’t having fun. My usual practice of walking into shape on the trail might be fine for the AT, but adding altitude into the mix requires me to be in better condition at the start of my hikes. Something had to change!
I had a physical shortly after I got back from Colorado and talked to my doctor about how frustrating dieting was. The only diet that had ever worked for me was the Atkins low carb diet, but with me that diet ended when I reached my goal. I will never give up carbs forever. My doctor suggested I try an on-line program. A couple of days latter an ad for Noom popped on my timeline and I sign up.
Noom has an educational component to it. You learn a paradigm that helps you make good decisions about what to eat. Everything you eat is recorded in their app. The first thing you do each morning is to weigh yourself and record your weight. When you do this you are rewarded with a graph showing your progress. You also record your activities in the app and half the calories you burn are added to your calorie budget for the day. You are placed in a group of other Noomers. A coach assigned to your group who shapes the conversation in the group chat. You also have an individual coach who touches base with you about once a week. You group and coaches are there to offer support. Changing the habits of a lifetime isn’t easy. You need this support. All this cost about as much as a pair of running shoes.
It should come as no surprise that the diet paradigm of Noom is exactly the opposite of the one backpackers use. While backpackers look for foods with a lot of calories packed into a small volume, Noomers look for foods with low caloric densities. The example that brought this home for me is grapes versus raisins. Thirty grapes gave exactly the same calories at 30 raisins, but the grapes take up more space. I had a 1700 calories a day budget.
You record your weight every morning, everything you eat during the day and all your workouts. After your weigh in, you see a graph of your progress
The graphic documentation of your progress is a tremendous motivator!
Special challenges and advantages
I had walked 200 miles on the Colorado Trail last August. You walk 200 miles in Colorado, you can pretty much jog any distance you want. I was slow, but could easily run five miles or so. My resting pulse was 52 and I literally couldn’t run fast enough to get out of breath. Noom wants you to build up to 10,000 steps a day. I ran a tad over 60 miles in September (the month before I started the program). While most people had to work up to 10,000 steps a day, I was doing at least that from the start. With the program I ran five days a week and my monthly mileage gradually increased. After a few weeks, I started walking an hour on my off days. In the Noom app, you see the impact of your activities. That feedback pushed me to do something everyday.
My wife is the principal of a semester program for high school juniors. I eat virtually all my meals in the dining hall. The school is on a working farm on the Maine coast. The food is healthy and plentiful, but I don’t really have control over what I eat. I only control how much. I definitely made mistakes. Pancakes for breakfast! Let’s have two with maple syrup! That’s half my daily budget! No food is off limits; you’re learning that everything needs to fit within your budget. I often didn’t know how many calories I had consumed until I recorded them in the app. I corrected those mistakes through my workouts. My mileage steadily increased until I was running 100 miles a month.
I left Noom in February when my initial subscription was up. I weighed 206… one pound short of my goal. Since than my weight has fluctuated between 206 and 211. My waist is down to 33 inches (from 38).
The “end of civilization as we know it” has created special challenges. I’ve felt compelled to have half a container of gelato and one or two beers every day. I consider these medicinal in our current situation, but I’ve remained averaging 100 miles a month through the Maine winter.
I’m afraid I’m not going to get to go back to Colorado this summer. I’m not sure I want to get in a closed container of tightly packed humans to fly out there in our current situation. Driving all the way from Maine doesn’t sound too appealing either. While just about any trail is all about social distancing, I’m not at all sure small towns will be dependable sources of supply and services. How does a pandemic affect the probability of getting a hitch? If I do get picked up, what is the probability that my ride takes COVID as seriously as I do? I’m 69. That heightens the stakes for me a bit. At my age I fear, I’m in use it or lose it territory. I feel like backpacking a month each year is something I need to do, but under our present circumstances, I don’t see how I can hit the trail this summer. The plan is to stay active, eat sensibly and hope I have something in the tank when things go back to normal.
On the other hand, my trail beard is epic!
* The feature image is a fox kit who was born outside my office window. The school has been quieter than normal this spring and it was fun watching this little guy and his siblings grow up.
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