A member of our Discord community flagged this Noom ad that they saw recently featuring a woman named Noelle (if you need a refresher on Noom’s deal, take your pick: here’s my piece on 1200-calorie diets of the Noom variety; here’s Virginia Sole-Smith; here’s a new piece from Vox; here’s Christine Byrne). Per the iSpot listing, the ad started circulating on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in December of last year. The text copy reads: “Noelle is an award-winning weightlifter.” The audio copy goes: “These are Noelle’s trophies. This is how she wins them [footage of Noelle pressing dumbbells]. Here she is after losing 30 pounds on Noom Weight”1.
The strong suggestion of the ad is that Noom isn’t just for people who want to be hot; it’s also for people who want to be good athletes, because accomplished athletes use it to manage their bodies. It also suggests, without subtlety, that Noelle lost 30 pounds using Noom Weight.
But actually, this appears to be Noelle, who doesn’t self-describe as an award-winning weightlifter. About six months ago, she posted a photo of an Olympic weightlifting barbell on the floor, loaded with 185lbs. Almost two years ago, she was hip thrusting 225lbs, and posted side-by-side photos of herself at 268 and 226 pounds, respectively (no mention of Noom, though, in this or any other weight-loss post). About three years ago, she did a questionable deadlift to get 135lbs up for RDLs, and a fine if non-regulation squat as far as competitions, suggesting it’s unlikely she was competing at that time, or any time before then. To be clear, this is all well and fine; I’ll be the last one to gatekeep weight lifting. But as it pertains to Noom’s claims in the ad, it’s understandable how it might not all seem to track.
Noelle posts pretty frequently, like at least weekly over that period of time. She’s never once posted about Noom that I can tell. But also, where is the award-winning weightlifting? Where are the competitions where the award-winning weightlifting happened? They would be a strange omission from an account where Noelle posts about many related victories, like her hip thrust above or her 25th Peloton ride. She’s not tagged in any posts, either.
This ad told me Noelle, an award-winning weightlifter, was using Noom. She doesn’t appear to be invested in sports-award-winning (which is fine), or to call herself a weightlifter. What... is going on? Perhaps more importantly, why is this going on?
It could be a lot of things. Below, is a series of guesses about what’s happening here, in order of most to least generous to everyone involved, and most to least likely.
Noelle competed at a bunch of local/unsanctioned/small-federation meets, for which records are not well-kept, and also chose not to ever post about them. (Or about actually using Noom, despite that it is namechecked in her bio.)
Now, this is all not to say that even a relatively new lifter can’t have a whole box full of medals if they want to. I’m no great shakes at lifting, and I managed to win a gold medal in my weight class2 at a local meet in 2018, besting, ahem, four whole other women (big ups to Squats and Science); you can see my competition records here and here. Even as a fairly rank amateur, it wouldn’t be impossible to go around to local meets and harvest medals, particularly if you’re in a less-populated weight class.
Neither Noelle nor Noom indicate her last name, but after a good bit of searching, I couldn’t find any evidence of her in the USAPL database, which records results for every sanctioned meet, or in the USPA-inclusive database. The USAW’s meet results are not nearly as comprehensive, but there’s little to indicate that Noelle does Olympic weightlifting, as opposed to some kind of powerlifting. Collecting medals would be even easier to do in smaller federations (there are a lot of them) or even unsanctioned meets. No shade to unsanctioned meets, they can be a lot of fun. But they are inherently less competitive on average and it’d be easy to rack up wins. Even still, it would be strange to have a fitness account and never post even once about what is, per the ad, a box full of medaled accomplishments. Unlikely, but not impossible. This is just a way that awards in weight lifting work.
Likewise, Noelle has plenty of incremental posts about her weight loss journey, yet I can’t find a single post showing Noom, hashtagged Noom, mentioning Noom, anything. Not everyone posts about everything.
Noom exaggerated Noelle’s story for her, with or without her input.
I’ve been present for and on enough sides of the content generation meat grinder to tell you that everyone is often not the same page about what the end result is going to be. This happens way more often than you think. When any thing in the world is weird, communication breakdown is a top reason, and it doesn’t even have to necessarily be due to nefarious motives (though it can be!).
Hypothetically speaking, maybe Noelle won one award, and it was a participation certificate from her gym for checking in ten times in a month. Maybe she was valedictorian of her high school class. I would not put it past an ad to blame me for thinking that, because the terms “award winning” and “weightlifter” are next to each other, that they share a connection.
It’s telling that the ad does not have Noelle claiming in her own words to be a decorated weightlifter. It suggests, at minimum, something was lost in translation. At maximum, someone somewhere along the line decided the ad wasn’t grabby enough with someone who is simply passionate about lifting and working out, and added b-roll of a box of shiny medals getting dropped on the table. Noelle the real person might understandably be unnerved or upset by this scenario, but could also have potentially signed an NDA, which would prevent her from talking about it.
Noelle is a real person who got one over on Noom, and Noom forgot to, or chose not to, question it.
I want to be super clear that there’s virtually no scenario where Noelle is the bad guy, to me. Not in this one or any of the others. I believe in Noelle’s right to secure her bag over my right to peace and sanity. I highly doubt this one, but even if it were the case, I begrudge almost no one pulling one over on a corporation whose product I find odious and detrimental to humanity. It would be bad, of course, that the end result of Noelle’s theoretical deception would be “a more compelling ad for Noom than reality could produce.” But I submit this is a small drop in the bucket of advertising that has converted Noom customers. It’s just the converse of the above scenario, so we have to consider it, as improbable or even noble as I might think it is.
Noelle is not a real person per se, but some sort of paid micro-influencer/plant/psy-op by fitness companies.
Noelle has a larger-than-usual commitment to brand-posting.3 The account seems to have been weight-loss-journey oriented from the beginning. This is the first post, which has a kind of uncanny-valley caption:
Then she has hundreds of the posts on her account that bear Fitbit brand watermarks, as would be generated by, I’m assuming, the Fitbit app; the recent ones that aren’t for Fitbit are about Peloton rides. There are no posts about Noom, that I can see, though she, strangely again, namechecks Noom in her bio. She posts a #flashbackfriday of a hotel gym workout, which is... a thing I’ve never seen a soul on earth do before, and in my time entrenched in the fitness world, I’ve seen a great many things.
Is this some new kind of guerrilla marketing, where companies pay actors to maintain themed accounts? Did Noom ask to loan Fitbit’s astroturf Instagrammer for a plausible-seeming ad? Is the real Noelle just an actress in the ad who is supposed to be playing the role of “Noelle,” whose story is incredibly similar to her own and yet different in significant ways? I don’t know of any real-life cases of any of these things, but as I live and breathe, brands are coming up with new ways to ingratiate themselves with us every day4.
None of these really answer the “why”, but in all cases I think it’s the same: Noom wants the clout of the strength-training world. The means by which it’s allotting itself that clout are not clear here, could be questionable, but there are a few possibilities.
Neither Noom nor Noelle returned my repeated requests for comment on what the deal is here, though I remain ever open to clarification on this situation from... literally anyone at all. Do you know Noelle? Are you Noelle? Are you Noom? Were you Noom? Our operators are standing by the email@example.com tipline, waiting for your information.
What subscribers will get this week: I’ve previously covered how to deal with the emotions of starting over at the gym after a break. But lots of people are recently asking, literally how do I do it? What weights do I lift? Where do I even start? I’ve got you in the upcoming Sunday Ask A Swole Woman edition of this very newsletter. Not only have I got you, but subscriptions are currently 30% off!
~Discord Pick of the Week: Someone asked how to improve their bench arch, so time for me to share my key-est tip: t-spine extensions. I did these for a few months as part of my warm up before every workout for for 2 sets of 20, and my bench arch has been juicy ever since.~
Jeff Nippard may have finally made the “How much protein do I need?” video to end all videos, which is not only clear and comprehensive but contains a new-to-me piece protein intake proxy for lifters with high body fat who are looking to build muscle: using their height in centimeters as the number of grams of protein they should eat, instead of some fraction of their body weight/lean body mass. That means if someone is 5’9” but weights 250 pounds, they would eat 69 inches * 2.54 cm per inch = 175 grams of protein. I still think protein intake is something everyone should strive to dial in for themselves, but the numbers in this video are great starting places.
“A feature set in the ultra-competitive world of bodybuilding” is a-coming from a-24 in the distant future! The role of the bodybuilder who is romantically entwined with Kristen Stewart’s character appears not to have been cast yet; we are fervently watching this space.
One of my favorite life lessons of lifting to harp on is the concept of failure, and skateboarders know it well.
The hot new class at your gym is resting.
Progressive overload is not just for weights. Here’s a young lad learning how to backflip.
This piece is noted for the New Yorker-specific crimes against my sport: “power lifting” and “dead lift.” The New Yorker, you are in time öut.
But then that same New Yorker published some great photos of Arnold; The New Yorker, you are öut of time öut again.
We all grow our glutes for a great many reasons, but “bastion of defense” is an underrated one.
All about the “how to be hot” subreddit. I’ll say, 12,000 members is pretty paltry in Reddit terms, but I’ve been anthropologically watching the much larger r/Vindicta mentioned in the piece for a few years now and it’s... really something to behold.
“Why are teens so sad?” hardly feels like a question that needs to be asked, even as it’s a worthwhile concern.
An interview with the guy who intentionally got dysentery is a wonderful peek into the world of real-world clinical trials.
McKinsey, the consulting company of already-dubious moral fabric, was advising Purdue and the FDA on drugs at the same time. This is gonna end with McKinsey retaining itself for advisement while also being retained by the federal government to advise it on how it should sanction McKinsey.
How is the goated AriZona Iced Tea still 99 cents? This is not even a good question, as tea and sugar cost no money in our economy. But for my part, I owe reverence to the big green can. For a while, I drank one every day in high school.
As we mourn the bravura end of the first season of Severance, the beast of Hacks reawakens!! I’m going to rewatch Season 1 now with GLEE and DELIGHT.
That’s all for today! I love you for reading, thank you, let’s go—
News to me is that what used to be just “Noom” is now “Noom Weight,” to differentiate from “Noom Mood,” “a fun, friendly, and engaging way to develop emotional awareness, effective stress response mechanisms, and overall stress resilience.” Oh boy. ↩
Noting for the record that I also didn’t post a photo of my medal, and it’s now inconveniently in storage. But I did post multiple times about the meet in question. ↩
This term I made up offhandedly seems to be causing some confusion post-publication, so let me clarify: by “brand-posting,” I’m talking about a post that mentions or displays a brand (a photo of, say, nachos would not be a brand-post; a photo of nachos watermarked with Bob’s Nacho Stand branding would be a brand-post). “Brand-posting” is distinguished from “sponsored content,” “brand partnerships,” or “advertisements,” which would all be relationships of monetary exchange where the method of disclosure is governed by FTC guidelines. I make no mention anywhere in this post of expecting or failing to see a sponsorship disclosure; I’m only noting that for an avowed user of Noom, and for someone who likes to post about brands they use, there are barely any visible mentions of Noom on the profile. If Noelle were being paid to post about Noom, or any of the brands in question, and was not disclosing those posts as ads, that would be a separate issue. Based on the evidence, that does not seem to be the case. ↩
It’s also worth noting that plenty of normal people follow mostly brands and then imitate the way brands post; this doesn’t make them psy-ops.