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The Noom Mindset

Learn the Science, Lose the Weight

By Noom
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About The Book

Noom’s first-ever (and only!) official book!

When it comes to setting and achieving your goals, how you think influences what you do. Whether developing a sustainable relationship with food, jump-starting a new fitness routine to shoot for a certain number on the scale, or tackling a health issue, mindset is key to meeting your goals—but it can also often be the most neglected element in any attempt to change behavior. While you might know what you want to do, the key to success is understanding why you want to do it, and how you make a plan that works for you in the long term.

The Noom Mindset, created by the leading digital health company that has helped millions achieve their weight and health goals, deconstructs habits around the core drivers of body weight: what we eat and how much we move. You’ll discover how your habits around eating and weight management are impacted by your own self-confidence, stress, habits, lifestyle choices, and the rollercoaster of motivation (yes, it’s supposed to go up and down). Best of all, you’ll learn skills that can be applied to any behavior you want to change, habit you want to break, or life you want to create.

This book is an instruction manual for achieving sustainable lifestyle changes plus many other health-related outcomes, including weight loss. With The Noom Mindset, you’ll learn how to:
-Cultivate a growth mindset
-Master the forging or deconstructing of behavior chains
-Overcome thought distortions
-Generate meaningful internal motivation for staying focused on your goals
-Create changes that stick

Based on more than a decade of research and experimentation, Noom has helped millions of users succeed by employing the mindset tactics that this book teaches. Written with an emphasis on self-awareness, goal-setting, and self-experimentation, The Noom Mindset provides powerful tools to help you reach your goals, your way.


Chapter 1: You Rule: Your Role in the Change You Want to Make

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

We suspect (since you are here) that there is something about your life that you would like to be different. Maybe you would like to get back to a healthy weight, where you felt so good in your body. Maybe you would like to get fit, or break some bad habits, or feel better, or just feel more like yourself. Maybe you know what you need to do, but you’re having trouble doing it; maybe you’re not sure where even to begin. Maybe you’ve already made some positive changes, but you want to make sure they stick.

Whatever story brought you here, you are in the right place, because Noom is all about helping people make changes. Our methods may not be like the ones you’ve tried before. We don’t throw a bunch of rules at you, control what you eat or how you work out, or even say that you need to change at all. Instead, we approach behavior change from a psychological perspective: What do you want to change about your life, and why do you want to change it? And why haven’t you changed it already?

We’re all about the why of behavior. Knowing your why is motivating. According to self-determination theory, or SDT, people are most successful at meeting goals when those goals relate to their innate psychological needs, especially autonomous motivation. Autonomous motivation is about doing something because you’ve decided to do it for yourself, and because it is consistent with your personality and values. Making that connection between why and your inner reasons for making a change—reasons that come from you, not from what someone else tells you that you should do—will, according to SDT, increase your motivation and make you more successful at achieving what you set out to achieve, whatever you decide that will be. This is what we here at Noom believe to be true based on the research we’ve done, and what we have seen in our most successful program participants. Understanding your why is an integral part of our program. In fact, “Why?” is our favorite question. Why do you make certain decisions, have certain thoughts, or form certain habits? To begin answering this question, we help you develop your self-awareness and learn how to experiment on yourself. We love experiments, as you’ll soon see! Our entire program is rooted in experimentation, and everything we implement is rigorously tested. Experimentation is key, not just to how we run our company and develop our curriculum but to how you can quickly and efficiently figure out what works for you. “We’ve purposefully optimized Noom to maximize learning speed via experimentation,” says cofounder and president Artem Petakov. “Experimentation is how I figure out what works in my personal life. It’s how we figured out what works for Noom. And it’s how you can figure out what works for you.”

But we don’t experiment just for the sake of experimenting. We base our experiments on research. We pull from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and a lot of other psychology concepts we’ll introduce you to along the way. We teach you how to identify and change destructive thought patterns that keep you from reaching your greatest goals, achieving your biggest dreams, and having the life you want for yourself, but the way we show you how to do this is always based on the evidence. We’re here to help you reach your goals your way, rather than trying to make you do things our way. There is no one right way to do anything because everyone is different, so we help you pay more attention to your own body and tune in to your psyche—because that is where all the answers lie. You just have to access them. Noom doesn’t give you a program. Noom gives you the tools to access the success “program” that’s already running in your own brain.

That’s how you build a life you love. We can show you how to shift painlessly into a calorie deficit that will lead to weight loss, how to have more fun moving, or how to feel calmer or more energized. Whatever your goal, we will always encourage you to ask “Why?” and we will always let you take the lead. We’re just here to hand you tools when you need them so you can set goals that are in line with who you are, and so you can stay motivated, inspired, and reassured that science is in your corner. You know yourself better than anyone else ever could, so while it’s your life, your plans, your goals, we’re in your corner. Because we trust you, and we want you to trust yourself. Because we believe in you, and we want you to believe in yourself. Because we know you can do whatever it is you decide you want to do for yourself.

Because you rule. You are the single greatest force in your health and in your life. You are the most influential, are the most powerful, and have the most control over what you will and will not do. All you have to do is understand, unlock, and harness that superpower you already have within you. Our goal—because we have goals, too—is simply to help you figure out how to do that.

If you’ve struggled in the past with how to eat healthier, exercise more effectively, lose weight you don’t want to be carrying around, or have a more comfortable relationship with food or your body, fear not. Noom has a ton of new tools. We can help you reframe how you look at food, exercise, weight, and even yourself, so you can stop fighting with food, the scale, the mirror, or your inner critic and start living in a way that can help you feel more confident and comfortable in your own skin. We like to say we are lovers, not fighters, and we want to help you put the battles aside so you can start truly enjoying your beautiful self and your beautiful life.

Here are some of the ways we do that:
  • We use psychology to help you change your habits and behavior in ways that can make you healthier and better able to reach your goals, rather than just giving you food lists and meal plans and rah-rah talk (okay, we take that back, we do sometimes use rah-rah talk).
  • We will never tell you what to eat, or what not to eat. We’re cool with carbs, fine with fat, and pro-protein. We’re not even going to tell you to quit sugar (mmm, sugar) or require that you eat two pounds of kale every day. Veggies are awesome, but you don’t have to do wheatgrass shots or even make smoothies in the morning if you aren’t into smoothies. We want you to eat what you want to eat. We want you to enjoy it, not feel guilty about it, and to choose foods deliberately and with knowledge and forethought so that what you eat can help to make you feel great, physically and psychologically. Because no matter what your goals, feeling great will make them easier to achieve.
  • We work with any eating style. If you’re an ethical vegan or a lacto-ovo-vegetarian or you’re totally into paleo or keto or low-carb or high-carb, that’s cool, too. You can be on any of those things and still “do Noom,” just as you can if you are a regular omnivorous-type human. Remember, we care more about why you eat than what you eat.
  • We don’t require exercise. We encourage healthy movement throughout the day because we know it’s beneficial to your physical and mental health; whether or not you do formal exercise, and how you move your body, is your business. You can, if you want, use Noom to help you make exercise a habit, or to inspire you to move more intuitively in your life, but we promise we will never make you go to the gym (although if you like going to the gym, go for it—gyms can be fun, and besides, we are not your boss).
  • We know that how and why you eat isn’t just about food. It’s also about stress, sleep, relationships, and a lot of other things that could be going on in your life. We don’t ignore that stuff. We know it’s important.
  • We don’t believe in failure. Noom is a no-punishment zone. We focus on all the great things that can happen to you when you make changes that can improve your health and how you feel. We even go so far as to say that there are no mistakes and no failures. Just because you don’t always do what you intended to do doesn’t mean you have failed. Challenges and obstacles are inevitable, and they’re opportunities to learn. All change involves a wave pattern of motivation surges and dips—days when all goes smoothly and days when all your plans fall apart. That’s how change (and life) works. Change is an active and dynamic process, not a straight line, and a perfectionist mentality can be self-defeating because, well… nobody is perfect, and we believe in progress, not perfection. Slip-ups are a sign of normal.
  • We believe in cooperation, not competition. We don’t use “leaderboards” in the app and we don’t encourage a competitive mindset in this book because we believe that positive reinforcement and personalized support from coaches, groups, and individuals is more productive and better helps you to stay positive and focused on your goals. When someone wins, someone else loses, and that’s not what Noom is about. Every step toward your goal is a win in our book!
  • You can use the Noom methods for any behavior change. Maybe you aren’t concerned with weight loss at all. That’s cool, too. You can use the tools in this book for anything you want to change. Whatever your goal, we are here to help. It could be to gain more self-confidence, get more sleep, make yoga or meditation a new habit, or work on getting your blood sugar or blood pressure or cholesterol back into the normal range. The bottom line is that Noom can help you make a change, no matter what kind of change that might be.

This time can be different because Noom is different.

But enough about us. Let’s get back to you, and one of the most important first steps you can take when you want to change your life: believing in yourself. Why We Need Psychology More than Rules
Noom has always taken a psychological approach to behavior change rather than a rules-and-restrictions approach because what happens when you want to change something has less to do with what you do and more with how you think about what you do. That’s why, in our experience, making rules to change behavior doesn’t work very well. Rules address the what but not the why, and humans aren’t very good at following rules that go against human nature.

For example, human nature tends to cause us to act based on in-the-moment feelings, rather than on what might happen in the future. There is a really good reason for that. In-the-moment decisions (“Run now!”) and immediate rewards (“Eat that food while you know you can get it!”) in times of danger and food scarcity probably significantly determined the survival of humans, back when there were a lot fewer of us and life was a lot dicier. Thinking about and acting based on a distant future (like next week) just wasn’t as important back then, in terms of making it to tomorrow.

Also, human nature, according to researchers in psychology who study the evolutionary roots of human decision-making, tends toward these ways of thinking:
  • Paying a lot of attention to irrelevant information (“Squirrel!”)
  • Being easily influenced by what’s happening around us even when it’s not in our own best interest (“I guess everyone else is doing it, so…”)
  • Skillfully rationalizing our bad decisions (“It’s just this once…”)

People like to do what feels best in the moment, what’s easiest, what’s most pleasurable, and what everybody else is doing. That’s all totally normal and, to some extent, is hardwired into our brains, so if we make a rule and say, “Don’t look at the squirrel” or “Don’t eat sweet things” or even “Don’t do what everybody else is doing,” what do you think most people will immediately want to do?

However, we also have fairly evolved brains here in this twenty-first century, which means we don’t always have to act on what we want now when we use our considerable intellects to determine that doing something differently could mean getting something even better later. When those delayed desires are more desirable than those immediate desires, that is when we can exercise our also very human ability to change our behavior.

But it’s difficult to override the instinct to take what you can get while you can get it, especially when acting on instinct has also become a habit. Let’s say you’re in the habit of eating a couple of chocolate chip cookies or a candy bar for your snack in the mid-afternoon on most days. You probably do that because, in the moment, those foods sound awesome. Or they used to. Now it’s just a habit and you don’t think much about it. And maybe that’s no big deal.

However, maybe you think it is a big deal. You think it’s a “bad habit.” You think sugar is bad, or cookies are bad, or whatever. Or you’re trying to get into a calorie deficit to drop some weight, and that afternoon snack has a whole lot of calories for very little nutritional payoff, so you think that changing that snack could help you reach your goal. So, you make a rule for yourself: “No more cookies or candy for a snack.”

The next day, when it comes time for a snack, suddenly you want those cookies. But you made a rule! So, you can’t have them. But as soon as you tell yourself you can’t have them, you want them more than you have ever wanted them before. So, you eat the cookies. Maybe even more cookies than you usually eat.

This is where psychology can come to your rescue. One thing you could do is to focus on mindfulness, a core concept of dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT. When it comes time for a snack, you can tune in to your body and ask yourself: “Are cookies really what I want right now? What is my body telling me? What is making me want cookies? Is it habit? Is it stress? Does something else actually sound better today?” How you really feel in the moment, physically and emotionally, might be more important than a blanket rule. If you determine you really want the cookies, then you might decide to enjoy every bite of cookie, no guilt! Or you might realize you don’t really want the cookies; what you really want is to decompress, so you go outside and sit in the sun for fifteen minutes. Or maybe, when you really think about it, what your body is actually craving is a nice, fresh, crisp, juicy apple with a dab of peanut butter, and you realize you’d rather have that than a cookie. This is psychology at work.

Or, let’s say you do want the cookies, but decide to stop before you nosh and consider the short-term and long-term ramifications of having cookies for a snack. First, you think about how those cookies usually make you feel later in the afternoon (hello, three o’clock slump), or how they might be keeping you from your much-desired longer-term goal of dropping those ten pounds you gained in the last year, pounds that make you feel uncomfortable when you zip up your jeans. Then, keeping all this in mind, you might decide that, even though you may want those cookies in the moment, what you really want is to choose a snack that will help you reach your goal. That goal might be feeling chipper at 3:00 p.m. when the people around you are all nodding off, or feeling great in your clothes, with no uncomfortable stomach feelings when you zip up.

How we think can cause us to make decisions against our own long-term best interest, but it can also be used to make decisions in our long-term best interest. This is a basic principle of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT: to examine and question ways of thinking and behaving that are unhelpful so you can change those thought patterns and behavioral habits in ways that benefit you. Immediate gratification is a powerful force. So is habit. But neither is as powerful as you and your very capable brain. If you can learn something, you can unlearn it. If you can choose to do something, you can choose to do something different instead.

When you weigh the costs and benefits, you may decide that the benefit of feeling better later will be greater than the benefit of enjoying cookies for a few seconds, when—if you are honest with yourself—you sometimes don’t even taste them because eating those cookies is just a habit.

Maybe you’ll even do a little experiment. Is it really the cookies causing that three o’clock slump? You could switch out your snack to an apple with some peanut butter for one week, and take notes about how you feel each day at 3:00 p.m. If you feel better, that may be evidence that your body responds better to the new snack, and that realization could motivate you to swap out those default cookies for that more energizing apple. And if you don’t feel any different? Maybe it’s all that coffee you’ve been drinking that’s causing you the trouble, and you could experiment by swapping some of your coffee for green tea or water.

This is just an example of some of the many wonderful ways Noom approaches behavior change. Self-Efficacy—aka Believing in Yourself
Self-efficacy is a scientific term that simply means believing in yourself. It’s like that famous old quote, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” The first step to changing something in your life is to believe you can do it. Obviously, that’s not the only step. You can’t just kick back with a pint of ice cream and think yourself into triathlon-level fitness or magically write the Great American Novel with no effort. Effort is definitely part of the equation, but self-efficacy is foundational. If you never really believe it’s going to work, then why would you put in the effort to try? But if (when) you believe, then you can move ahead with confidence, energy, and the willingness to put in the work it’s going to take to reach your goals.

Self-efficacy isn’t a quality that is set in stone. It’s not genetic, like your eye color or whether you think cilantro tastes like soap. It comes from what has happened to you so far in life. If you have had a lot of experience succeeding at things (lucky you), then you may have a lot of self-efficacy. If you have experienced a lot of challenges or haven’t always met your goals, you may have lower self-efficacy, and this can make it really difficult to visualize success. It’s hard to have high self-efficacy when most of your attempts at, for example, weight loss have not worked out. You have already learned from past experiences that you “can’t” lose weight, so this becomes your belief.

But you can cultivate self-efficacy, and that’s one of the things Noom helps you do because (at the risk of immediately launching into a cheer-squad moment): You can do this, whatever it is you have decided you want to do, even if you haven’t really believed you could do it before. Even if you tried to do it before and didn’t succeed. Every time something doesn’t work, you learn what doesn’t work. The lesson isn’t that it’s not possible. You are smart (you read books!), you are flexible (even if you can’t touch your toes), and you know that doing something one way doesn’t mean you can’t do it another way going forward. That’s another big Noom principle: This time is different, because Noom is different. And you’re different, too, because with every new lesson, every new experience, you become someone smarter and more experienced.


Psychologists have various ways they help people to measure their self-efficacy, so let’s start out by measuring yours. Answer each of the following questions, giving yourself one point for every “strongly agree,” two points for every “agree,” etc., all the way down to five points for every “strongly disagree.” Don’t worry if the questions seem similar. Just answer each one as well as you can. And remember, even if your self-efficacy seems low right now, this is something you can definitely improve.
  1. 1 – strongly agree
  2. 2 – agree
  3. 3 – not sure one way or the other
  4. 4 – disagree
  5. 5 – strongly disagree
  1. If I set a goal for myself, I know I can achieve it.
  2. If I know something is difficult, I mostly likely can still do it.
  3. I usually do what I set out to do.
  4. If I really want something, I believe I can get it, one way or another.
  5. Life is full of challenges, but I always find a way to get through them.
  6. I’m confident in my abilities to do most things pretty well.
  7. When the going gets tough, I get tougher.

Now, tally up your answers. Total points: __________

If you scored between seven and fifteen, you have excellent self-efficacy. You are confident that you can achieve goals and are good at being your own best cheerleader. We’ll chime in: Give us a Y, give us an O, give us a U! Now, the next step will be to start figuring out what goals you want to tackle next and making a game plan to achieve them. You already know you can do it, so let’s go for it!

If you scored between sixteen and twenty-six, you have pretty good self-efficacy, but you could gain even more self-confidence about your ability to achieve your goals. You already achieve goals every day. Do you brush your teeth? Do you eat breakfast? Do you sometimes give junk food a pass? Are you polite to others, even when they aren’t so polite to you? Every one of those things is a success, a goal achieved, a win. If you can brush your teeth every day, you can do anything every day. Throughout this book, we’ll help you prove it to yourself, one day at a time.

If you scored between twenty-seven and thirty-five, you may not be super-confident about achieving your goals, perhaps because you haven’t always met the goals you were going for in the past, like trying to lose weight or starting to exercise or cutting back on sugar. No worries! We’ve got great psych tools to help you change that, and we’re going to give you an exercise right now that will immediately build your confidence in your abilities.

Right here, as you read this, think of one small thing you can do right now that is good for you. Just one small thing. Can you go eat some fruit? Can you do ten jumping jacks? Can you sit with your eyes closed and breathe deeply for one minute? Whatever it is, stop reading and do it right now. We’ll wait. Okay, go!

Are you done? How was that? Not so hard, right? And guess what? You just achieved a goal. And if you can achieve that goal, you can achieve one that’s just a tiny bit more challenging. And then you can go from there. Awesome job, you!

The good news about self-efficacy is that there are some great tools anybody can use to start building it in themselves.

One tool is to find proof that you can achieve things that are meaningful. Transfer your thoughts about those experiences onto the thing you are trying to do now. Think: “I did this, so I can do that.” Another strategy is to break your goal down into smaller goals. Big goals are exciting at first but can soon become overwhelming. Instead of saying “I’m going to run a marathon!” or “I’m going to lose seventy-five pounds,” which can seem unlikely or impossible when you begin to hit roadblocks, ground your self-efficacy in smaller victories rather than the end goal.

You can determine where to start by asking yourself: “Do I believe I can run ten miles? Do I believe I can lose fifty pounds?” If the answer is no, lower the number. “Do I believe I can run five miles? Do I believe I can lose twenty-five pounds?” No, based on past experience? How about “Do I believe I can walk for one and a half miles and run for half a mile?” or “Do I believe I can lose five pounds?” Once you get to a yes, you’ve found the perfect goal for now, even if you know in the back of your mind that you would eventually like to run much farther or lose more weight than that.

When you’ve accomplished that, no matter how long it takes, celebrate that Big Win! Then ask yourself again: “Do I believe I can lose five more pounds? Do I believe I can run half a mile?” Now you know you did it once, so you can do it again. So do it again! Once that starts to feel easier, ask yourself if you believe you can lose ten pounds, or run a mile and a half, or however it makes sense for you to progress toward your ultimate goal.

This is how you can look at the small picture to build self-efficacy. Every small goal you achieve will reinforce your brain’s belief in your ability to do what you set out to do. Every small success pings your brain, and it begins to adjust its perspective—and that’s how you make progress. Cultivating a Growth Mindset
Do you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? These are psychology terms related to self-efficacy that have to do with whether or not you think you can change. Having a growth mindset, according to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and her team, means believing that your effort will increase your abilities, whereas a fixed mindset means believing that your abilities are fixed, no matter what effort you might make. Someone with a growth mindset might say, “Math is hard. I need to practice more.” Someone with a fixed mindset might say, “I guess I’m bad at math.”

Do you have an “I can learn to run five miles if I put my mind to it” or “I will always be this out of shape so I guess I could try but the odds are not in my favor” kind of attitude? Dr. Dweck explains, in her book Mindset, that people with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence, personality, and talents are set in stone. They don’t think they can change, so they focus on doing what is familiar and easy for them, and they avoid doing what is challenging. They also tend to be less resilient when they think they have failed. They let it discourage them from trying.

On the other hand, people with a growth mindset believe they can change their intelligence and their personality with effort, so they are more resilient when they fail. They think they just have to keep trying, so in the end they are more likely to succeed.

You may already have a sense of what kind of mindset you tend to favor based on the self-efficacy quiz you just took, but let’s go a little deeper. Maybe you want to achieve something—run a 5K or eat more vegetables or start meditating for ten minutes a day. If you have a fixed mindset, you likely see all the obstacles standing between you and your goal and then struggle to see a path around them. If you have a growth mindset, you’ll recognize that there are some obstacles, but you’ll also believe that you can figure them out. You know that the power to achieve your goal comes from you, not from somebody else.

But other people are influential, make no mistake! It’s important to practice telling yourself that nobody is forcing you to behave one way or another. Nobody is forbidding you from getting in some exercise or meditation, although they may be trying to distract you or make you what seems like a better offer, like girls’ night out or a Monday Night Football watch party. And you can always do those social things if you want to do them. Always! But you are empowered to make choices about what is in your own best interest and what you really want to do, both in the moment and for your future. You are your own person.

That doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help. If it’s hard to do alone, enlist a friend. Talk to a counselor. Having a growth mindset doesn’t mean you can do everything by yourself. We are social animals, and we all tend to do better when we work together.

An environment change can also be a great supporter of a growth mindset: Surrounding yourself with people who are supportive of your goals or have similar goals can be influential and powerful in shaping what you choose to do. Our resident chief of psychology, Dr. Andreas Michaelides, told us a story about how he used to smoke when he lived overseas, where everybody smoked. When he came to the United States for graduate school, he had a much easier time quitting because he was in an environment where smoking was not normalized. He says, “Changing the people you’re with can rewrite the script on your environment that maintains the habits you’re wanting to change or you’re wanting to emulate. Being around other people who act a certain way that you would like to act will motivate you and help you act the way you want to act.” Let’s say you have a family with some less than desirable eating habits. You’re surrounded by people who maintain and reinforce eating habits you wish you didn’t have. But surrounding yourself with other people who have eating habits you do wish you had can help you adopt some of those behaviors. People are influenced by those around them, so this can be a good way to help support your desired behavioral changes.

Of course, you can’t just ditch your family, or your friends for that matter, if you truly love them. That doesn’t mean you can’t also cultivate other peers whose goals are in line with yours. Dr. Michaelides says: “When you see other people doing something, you get ideas about how to do it yourself, and if you get praised for doing the things that other people are doing because that’s what’s considered normal in that environment, that reinforces what you’re doing. Those other things you used to do, at the same time, may often be discouraged in some way and don’t get reinforced, and that helps extinguish that behavior.” Cultivating an environment that will help you reach your goals, even if that means something super simple, like creating a habit of meditating on your goals every morning or getting all the candy and chips out of the house, will bolster your growth mindset in powerful ways. And remember, there are always obstacles to success. Understanding your circumstances and the obstacles you face, then using a growth mindset to do your best to succeed in spite of those circumstances and obstacles, is a rational and healthy way to leverage a growth mindset for goal achievement. The Ever-Changing Brain, aka Neuroplasticity
One of the most awesome things about human brains is that they are plastic. Not made-out-of-synthetic-material plastic, but plastic in that they can change according to your experiences. Scientists used to think we had a fixed number of brain cells throughout life, and once neuronal connections were established, they stayed that way; but now we know that’s not true at all. Brains are dynamic and responsive to stimuli from the environment and from what’s going on inside your body.

Knowing your brain responds to experience, you can change your brain by changing your experience. Eating certain foods that benefit brain health—for example, omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish or algae can strength the membrane of nerve cells and protect the brain from degeneration, and polyphenols (antioxidant plant compounds) from brightly colored fruits and vegetables—can modify the brain’s ability to adapt to stress and prevent degeneration.

Exercising changes your brain by releasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF, a molecule that helps your brain be more plastic and adaptive, and also improves learning and memory) into the brain. It even triggers neurogenesis, or the creation of new brain cells, in the part of the temporal lobe in your brain that is largely responsible for learning and memory.

How well you sleep influences how well your brain self-cleans at night, getting rid of dead cells and waste in the brain via the glymphatic system (like the lymphatic system in your body, but just for your brain), which does its work during deep sleep. Being angry, negative, or sad changes your brain, and so does being optimistic, joyful, or friendly. Emotions influence how well your brain works, including how well you can perceive things, pay attention, learn, reason, and solve problems. If your brain gets injured, neuroplasticity means that in some cases, your brain can even reroute neural functions from an injured area to a healthy area. If your brain can do that, just imagine what else it could do for you! Changing your mindset is a snap in comparison.

Environment and the brain influence each other in a two-way conversation. It’s a feedback loop—another fancy-ish psychology term for when the output of any system (like your brain) in the past or present becomes an input for that same system in the present or future.

So, maybe your brain is telling you to look on the sunny side of things. That teaches your brain to do that more often, so in the future you’ll be more likely to think optimistically. Another example would be riding out a craving. When your brain is craving something, like chocolate or potato chips, and you give in to the craving even if it isn’t in your plan, your brain might be more likely to give in next time, depending on the cause of the craving. (Cravings are complex—there is much to consider regarding the causes, which we will cover in more detail in Chapter 5.)

But, if you wait to dig in, you will be more likely to wait longer next time. And if, eventually, you ride out the craving (which rises, crests, then falls away like a wave), then the next time you have a craving, your brain will know you’ve got this, Self-efficacy in action! You will have strengthened your mental muscles, and it will be easier and easier, every time you do it. The Brain-Changing Power of Visualization
Another way to bolster your self-efficacy is with a technique we love here at Noom: visualization. One of the many amazing things brains can do is visualize things that aren’t happening. According to Dr. Michaelides, “The ability to visualize things is part of how we are wired, and what’s interesting is that when you hook up someone’s brain to see what it’s doing, the parts of the brain that light up when you visualize doing something are the same parts of the brain that light up when you are actually doing it.” How cool is that? Dr. Michaelides tells us that you can get better at doing something just by visualizing it. Athletes do this sometimes, imagining they are practicing their sport before playing it, and the evidence suggests that this actually improves performance. According to a review of the literature comparing how this works in athletes and how it works in surgeons, this kind of mental practice, also known as guided imagery, can even help surgeons perform better, taking their skills to the next level. If it works for athletes and surgeons, why not for you?

How about trying it right now?


Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and visualize yourself, your goal achieved, in as much detail as you can. How do you feel inside? How do you act? How do you look? What is your life like? Really get into it and imagine exactly what it feels like to have achieved your goal. Think about how you knew you could do it all along. Feel proud of yourself. Hang out here as long as you like, then slowly let the image fade and open your eyes. Hey, you just visualized self-efficacy and success. Your brain is already making new connections.

Patience, Noomer!
Behavior begins in the brain, and as you now know, you can change your behavior because you can change your brain. And just knowing that can improve your confidence in your own abilities to change. However, this isn’t necessarily a “lose ten pounds in two days” scenario (in fact, we guarantee it’s not, and we would never advise that anyway!). All good things take time, and slow changes are more likely to stick. You aren’t going to achieve your entire goal by tomorrow. That’s because behavior change, while 100 percent possible (unlike “ten pounds in two days”), isn’t a quick fix. Real, meaningful, lifelong change that becomes part of who you are takes a bit of time, and that can require some patience.

But what you can do, just in the time it has taken you to read this chapter, is to lay the foundation for change by adjusting the way you think about yourself and your ability to achieve whatever it is you want for yourself and your life. You and your brain are amazing and capable, and if you really want to change something, you can do it.

There is plenty of research on how long behavior change takes. Experts estimate it can take anywhere from eighteen days to almost a year to change a behavior, such as starting a new habit or quitting one. The average, according to a 2009 study from the European Journal of Social Psychology, is sixty-six days. You will almost certainly notice positive, exciting changes before then, but sixty-six days may be about what it takes to solidify those changes and make them a permanent part of your lifestyle. And in the scheme of things, sixty-six days really isn’t that much time if you think about how long you’ve been wanting to make a change.

If you want to change something about your life—get healthier, have more energy, increase fitness, become a chess master—stick with us, because while we won’t try to trick you into believing in instant miracles, we do have the tools to help you make change happen. Even if it takes a year, that’s a year well spent, wouldn’t you say? But it might take sixty-six days… or even less! Three months, give or take, isn’t long at all in the scheme of your long, healthy, happy life. The “You” Experiment
Improving your self-efficacy is just one of many strategies we’ll tell you about in this book, but we always want you to remember that at the heart of what we do lies experimentation, and that can be the key to your own behavior change, too. At Noom, we conduct research all the time to figure out what works best for people and how to best evolve our platform—and not every experiment is a success. The same is true for anyone, including you. No one way of eating or exercising or sleeping or living is suitable for everyone. You won’t use all our tools, and the ones you do use won’t all be equally as beneficial or useful for you. How will you tell the keepers? Self-experimentation is the best method for finding out what will be both enjoyable and sustainable.

But we don’t just experiment for the sake of experimenting. We experiment to figure out what to do, and we consult the research to figure out what to experiment on, and then we experiment to figure out what works. In the same way, you might read a research study, but that won’t necessarily tell you what to do because it might not apply to you. To find out if it does, you can do an experiment. Artem explains, “Let’s say you want to feel more energetic, and you read a study that says meditation helps with energy. Some people might think, ‘Okay, then I’m going to start meditating because a study says meditation helps with energy.’ But we don’t think that’s the best approach. The Noom approach is to do an experiment—to start meditating and keeping a record of your energy levels to see if meditation gives you more energy. You can base your hypothesis on the study, but then you still need to experiment to see if that hypothesis works for you. This is why at Noom, we say our experiments are research-informed rather than research-directed. It’s a subtle difference, but it makes all the difference.”

Let’s say you want to be healthier, and you’ve read a lot of different articles or research papers about what improves health. The truth is, there are probably a million and seven ways a person could become healthier in a million and seven different ways. Which ways appeal to you? What would work for you? What results do you want? You may not know until you start trying things, and begin keeping track of what works and how, and what doesn’t work and why.

Think about (or write down) all the things you might already be thinking you want to try or that you’ve heard could work. Jogging? A salad for lunch every day? Deep breathing? A sleep tracking gadget? A workplace weight-loss challenge? Running a 5K or embarking on a yoga handstand or plank challenge? You can record when you tried things, how well they worked, and whether you’ll definitely keep doing them (lunch salads are awesome!) or not so much (we aren’t all born to do handstands, and we include ourselves in that group).

Another reason we like experimentation so much is because it takes the pressure off. “Experimentation emboldens you to act because it’s not really a commitment. It’s just an experiment,” Artem says. “It’s just something you’re playing around with, so you may not feel like you have to wait to get started, and once you get started, you can be more aggressive about the intervention you’re experimenting with. You can make larger moves in order to get results from your experiment, and that can result in faster and more obvious results. Pick something that really moves the needle and put a lot of effort into it to see if it works. You’re most likely to see results that way, and when you do, that’s reinforcing. If you don’t, that’s evidence that what you’re testing might not be for you. Once you decide to do something regularly, you can settle into it, but if you’re just testing, you don’t have to worry about sustainability yet. You can go harder with your test because it’s just a test.”

For example, let’s say you want to experiment with intermittent fasting. Maybe the idea of eating only within an eight-hour window and fasting for sixteen hours (such as finishing eating in the evening by 8:00 p.m. and not eating again until noon the next day) sounds too hard and too extreme for you to do forever. That’s okay. Try it as an experiment. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to keep doing it. But maybe you will like it, and then your experiment has paid off because you found a new health behavior that works for you and that you really enjoy.

Knowing how to experiment on yourself is also important, because people change and grow. Self-experimentation can help keep your goals updated according to your current needs, keep you from getting into a rut, and keep your progress visible and motivating. Throughout this book, we’ll be giving you lots of opportunities for self-experimentation, along with information about what we’ve learned has worked with our Noomers and what science has discovered about the most powerful tools for health and behavior change. What you do with this information is all part of your journey, and we’re honored to be a part of it.

What do you experiment on? That’s totally up to you, and don’t worry that you’ll pick the wrong thing. “Anything can be improved,” says Artem. “Any little area of your life, any part of our program, anything you want to change, can probably be done better. That’s just life, and that’s how we learn and grow. Experiment in any area of your life you want to improve. Maybe you try to exercise to get better abs, but maybe you don’t get the results you want from exercise alone, so then you think, ‘Maybe abs are made in the kitchen, and I have to change my diet, too.’ That’s good data, even if the experiment didn’t necessarily work the way you wanted to. And you still increased your ab strength. You just realized you might also have to do something else, or two other things, and then you can triangulate to get to the best solution. We generally expect that one out of five or even one out of ten experiments will succeed, but they’re all worth trying. I think of experimenting as playful, not heavy. Don’t get discouraged! Take a playful approach, and you’ll see how fun self-experimentation can be.”

The journey to change may have its challenging moments, and we won’t ever try to tell you it’s not difficult, but we will tell you (because it’s true) that you are stronger than any habit you have right now that you want to change, and you are stronger than your resistance to change. When you approach challenges with a sense of adventure and an intact sense of self-efficacy (getting stronger every day!), you can actually enjoy the process as much as the results. We know you’re anxious to see changes, and we’re anxious to see you seeing them, but if you keep yourself busy with the thrill of getting there, you’ll be so engaged with the how that you might not even notice the length of the road to the finish line. And then, before you know it, you’re at your healthy weight, or you’re running that 5K, or you’re a chess master, or you’re standing on your hands away from the wall (show-off).

Go, you!

Keep visualizing you achieving your goal, and how it feels to be there already. Think about it, write about it, draw it, dream it. The more you keep it in your mind, the more motivated you’ll be to get there, and the more your brain will believe you can do it, as much as we believe in you.

Now, the next step toward making a change is to know exactly what your goals are. Where are you going, and why? And we mean exactly. Like, put your finger on the map, and let’s start charting the course.

About The Author

Noom is a consumer-first digital health platform that empowers its users to achieve holistic health outcomes through behavior change. Noom was founded in 2008 with a mission to help people everywhere lead healthier lives. Fueled by a powerful combination of technology, psychology, and human coaching, Noom is backed by more than a decade of user research and product development. Today, Noom’s platform includes two core programs: Noom Weight for weight management and Noom Mood for stress management. Headquartered in New York City, Noom has been named one of Inc.’s Best Places to Work and Fortune’s Best Workplaces in Technology. Learn more by visiting

Product Details

  • Publisher: S&S/Simon Element (December 27, 2022)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982194291

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