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I'm Gay, 50 and Not Dead. How Noom Restored My Faith in Self

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday January 18, 2021

I'm Gay, 50 and Not Dead. How Noom Restored My Faith in Self
  (Source:Courtesy of Noom)

It was meant to be my Golden Jubilee, but my looming 50th birthday felt, instead, like a nail in the coffin. The era of late-night dancing and spending a week's paycheck on a Michelin star meal had long passed. These days, I was more inclined to splurge on Korean fried chicken and binge-watch an entire season of "The Golden Girls" over the weekend. (Twenty-five episodes, no small feat.) Despite moderate eating and drinking habits, I had become paunchy with a body mass index (BMI) hovering over 27 — considered "overweight" and putting me at risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. So, I started dating. Not my usual type, but well recommended. Noom and I have grown quite intimate. I think I'm in for the long haul.

Many Gen Zs in the LGBTQ community, myself included, never had a roadmap for dating or intimacy. When I told my parents I was gay, although they embraced me with open arms, their biggest concern was that I should "be careful" — clearly referring to the AIDS crisis. Instead of dating, I channeled my energy toward certain behaviors — some of which served me and others that became detrimental over time.

Noom, founded more than a decade ago and built over several years with seamless integration of psychological tools and technology, helps people learn how to eat by revealing why we eat. I never considered myself overweight, proud that I "wore it well" and presented a put-together, confident man who had overcome '80s style disasters like parachute pants and feathered hair. But leave me alone with a Domino's pizza and I could finish it off in one sitting. Control wasn't my forte.

The easy-to-navigate Noom program offers daily tips and psychological tricks to retrain our behaviors and serve our wellness needs. Healthy eating habits are at its core, strengthened by motivation through a toolkit that includes recipes as well as resources beyond nutrition and exercise, such as managing sleep and stress.

(Source: Courtesy of Noom)

"Noom supports you in setting specific goals and, more importantly, supports you in breaking down those larger goals into smaller weekly steps," says Noom's Senior Coaching Manager Elizabeth Raynor. "Utilizing Noom's individualized coaching feature and peer support groups, you will focus on developing sustainable habits through daily steps, tasks, and goals that encourage self-awareness, careful consideration, and gentle "nudges" to stay on track. Noom is more than a weight-loss app or restrictive diet plan; we are providing the tools that will allow Noomers to live the life they deserve."

I fell hard, effortlessly logging meals and weight, and within a couple of weeks had lost a few pounds. True, if I weighed myself first thing in the morning, I'd be happier with the results, but the mind game gave way to real results over time. But like that first bicker with my last boyfriend over who had the best runway look on "RuPaul's Drag Race," I hit a bump in the road. Why had my weight loss flat-lined? There were even some stretches where I gained weight, instilling a "Why am I even IN this relationship?!" moment.

Raynor says it's not uncommon to face early hurdles. But knowledge is power. She identifies three common challenges Noomers face early in the journey and how they can overcome them:

Expecting immediate results and getting discouraged.
Often when things get tough, we throw in the towel because things aren't happening fast enough, but if we turned one more corner, we'd see them. Persistence is key but can be so tough in the beginning.

Not being comfortable with failure and experimentation.
It takes time to figure out what works for YOU. In the early stages of a wellness journey, we need to experiment with different tools and habits to figure out what is sustainable. Experiments are not all successful so try shifting your perspective to view a "failure" as a learning experience.

Starting too big instead of setting realistic, small goals.
Start small, celebrate successes, and then build. When you set a big goal, it may seem exciting at first, but this large goal may start to feel too intimidating or overwhelming to tackle as time passes. Set yourselves up for success by breaking your goal down into smaller, more achievable goals. At Noom, coaches help users make their goals SMART — these are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-sensitive.

Enter the goal specialist.

Enter the goal specialist.

Sarah, my Noom goal specialist, was the equivalent of my ex's best friend, who I'd call to get the inside scoop on how to handle a situation without ruffling any feathers at home. Authentically optimistic, she'd chime in via private message in the app with words of wisdom and constructive tips. And unlike so many of my matches on Tinder and Hinge, which seemed to go well at first and then fizzle, she never ghosted me!

Sarah lifted me with words of encouragement ("I know it can be tough, so great job sticking with your action plan!") but also held me accountable ("Can you tell me a little about what typically causes you to eat later?"). She even sent me some tips to boost my mid-afternoon energy when I complained about being lethargic. Hint: mozzarella, tomato and basil became a quick favorite.

I also found support in a Noom peer group. Accessible through the program, the group chat provided a platform to share struggles and successes, reminding me that I wasn't alone.

"Research shows that we are significantly more likely to accomplish our goals when we write them down and tell them to friends," says Raynor. "Enter: the Noomily! The Noom community provides you with accountability and support throughout your journey. Surrounding yourself with friends and a community of people who share your values and vision tends to help keep you accountable to your goals and stay motivated.

"To set yourself up for success, start with one habit at a time. By limiting your focus to just one habit, you can easily measure your progress and celebrate your wins, making it less likely that you'll become overwhelmed by your big picture vision.

"Another tip is to be kind to yourself and learn to ride the waves. It's normal to have ups and downs on a wellness journey. Staying non-judgmental toward yourself is key in those downs. It can be helpful to remember that habits aren't created overnight. Changing your behavior patterns often takes more than one attempt. Instead of thinking about these moments as slip-ups, consider them an opportunity to practice and sharpen your habit-building skills."

To some, my 16-week romance may have appeared hot and heavy. I can't deny that I was beginning to brag — not just about reaching my goal weight but, rather, what I had learned about myself. My penchant for fried food may have been the entry point, but the comfort in the crunch was the real discovery. I now found comfort in walking the dog or a handful of carrots and homemade hummus. I discovered empowerment through research-driven actions in just about 10 minutes per day.

A year later, Noom and I are still close but seeing other people. I don't mind sharing the love. I'm 50, after all.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Noom and begin your wellness journey with a 7-day trial for $.50!

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at www.wexlerwrites.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.

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