A Review on Noom or How I Learned Wisdom
I heard from a fellow MoFem and psychologist friend that Noom, a weight-loss application, employed sound psychological concepts and tools so effectively that she would recommend it to her clients as a tool for general mental health. As I recently finished talk therapy (for now), I wondered if Noom could help me address some unhealthy eating patterns as well as maintaining my overall mental health.
In March, I signed up. I recognized some unhealthy eating patterns, i.e. ways I used food to numb and cope with emotions. It felt strange to sign up for a weight loss program when I didn’t want (in fact worried that) weight loss would become my focus. And Noom has done a great job in helping me learn; #NoomNerds use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; mindfulness and meditation; and self-reflection through journaling to achieve weight loss. Still, I was skeptical.
Also, surprise! This isn’t actually a post about Noom. (This article is a great resource for that https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/reviewedcom/2020/01/09/noom-review/4422490002/.)
For much of my life, I was best at embracing spiritual practices that I was sure I could do perfectly: Church callings, daily prayer, Word of Wisdom, tithing. I had decided that quantitative measurements would let me know that I did things “right.” I could make concrete plans to succeed at those goals.
While sometimes the goals were hard to achieve, at least it was always easy to measure how well I was doing them.
In achieving those goals, I shied away from creating bigger goals, e.g. strengthening my testimony, practicing hope, feeling the love of the Atonement. I didn’t know what those goals would look like. How would I know if I succeed at them? And, frankly, my spiritual life was busy enough with the easily measurable goals that I soothed myself with the idea that until I could manage daily scripture study and weekly FHE, I didn’t really have time to do those loftier goals.
My perspective about my spiritual life was similar to my perspective of my body. I know how to lose weight, cutting calories until the weight comes off. My culture has taught me what weight is “best” for me. I can ignore physical discomfort, hyper-focus on the scale numbers, and achieve those numbers. (Some of my worst eating and self-loathing habits have been adopted in pursuit of the scale number.)
Noom reframed my thinking about my body. Instead of “how much weight do I want to loose?,” I was asked to define my big picture, “Your Big Picture (YBP)” in Noomspeak. Noom goes on to further break down YBP, to dig deeper, and ask more questions. I won’t bore you with the details (after all, this still isn’t really a post about Noom).
There was a time when my YBP (to feel confident and happy in my body) felt as unattainable a goal as feeling the love of the Atonement. But, Noom gave me tools to make my YBP more concrete and attainable. It provided me with regular readings on how to think differently about my body and be kinder to myself; it even shows me how to apply these techniques in other areas of my life, like in the workplace and in my personal relationships.
Noom asked me thoughtful questions that I could reflect on in my journal; these questions didn’t have a “right” or “wrong” answer. The app gave me a safe community where I could say what was making me uncomfortable, when I was struggling, and problem solve on how I could try new solutions.
I developed skills to be kind to myself, find ways to joyfully move, and forgive myself. While Noom is marketed as a weight-loss app, it actually gave me time and space to learn wisdom about my body and mind. It reminds me of this quote that former Episcopalian pastor, Barbara Brown Taylor, wrote in her book, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, “Wisdom is not gained by knowing what is right. Wisdom is gained by practicing what is right and noticing what happens when that practice succeeds and when it fails.”
I think about other communities in my life, like my ward, like the Mormon feminist community. How can we as community help individual members to gain their own spiritual wisdom? How much would our spiritual communities be enriched if we then felt safe to share our hard-won wisdom with each other?
And, here’s where it gets tricky: Noom gave me the freedom to find my YBP. The community, the readings, the questions were all to help me achieve the goal I set; Noom trusted that I knew best what my YBP is.
Do we, as a Church, an institution, trust each other to gain our own spiritual wisdom? Do we trust that a member when they say they skipped Church in order to grow closer to God through a hike? Do we trust one of our Mormon feminist sisters that she gains wisdom by serving as a Young Women’s counselor even as we worry that her ward is not giving her what we think she needs?
Those quantitative measurements when it comes to our weight and our religiosity are so convenient. They are so (relatively) easily controlled. It is comfortable to say, “We have 60% ward temple attendance. How do we improve that?”
But, what would it look like if we said, “We know there is addiction in this ward. How do we help these people feel the love of God and the power of the Atonement so that they can find their YBP?”
Do we truly believe that each individual understands their spiritual gifts and divine nature? How do we, as a community, express that trust? How do we help each other to trust our inner wisdom? How do we empower each other to find that inner wisdom?
I don’t have good answers to those questions, but I know that those answers can only come when we feel safe in our communities because we cannot trust each other to do the hard inner spiritual work until we can feel safe.
Do you feel safe in your ward? Do you feel safe with your family? Do you feel safe in the Mormon feminist community? If you do, how do you feel safe? If you don’t, could you be vulnerable and ask for what you need to feel safe?