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Mindful Eating

Zoe Nutrition Review for PCOS Part 1: Blood Sugar and Gut Health Testing

Why I think ZOE will help me lose weight

What is ZOE? Maybe you’ve seen it on Instagram (where they first found me). It’s an exciting new health tech startup that is a part app (well two apps πŸ™‚ ) that integrate with additional testing, your own food logging experience, and some specialized muffins to help you gain insights into how your body responds to food.

I’m now 21 years into my PCOS journey (that I know of, and longer unknown time with insulin issues that at first caused hypoglycemia). And if I’ve learned anything with my hormonal health journey (and moving across the country) it’s that – my hormonal health is always in a state of flux, it doesn’t always go as planned, I don’t fit every standard definition of health conditions and physicians have varying level of experience and exposure to a range of women’s hormonal health issues. So much more on that in a later post…

Some tools that used to work for me don’t and the state of my body is left fundamentally changed since I gave birth (one bonus – much fewer episodes of hypoglycemia). I’ve written previously about my post-partum weight loss journey of using Noom while on POCS. And I still definitely recommend Noom – but like in many aspects of my life – like sensitive skin skincare routines – sometimes I need to change things up!

Noom is a fantastic tool for understanding your emotional relationship with food and trying a low-calorie density approach for eating. In general, this worked well for me especially after I had my baby when I still felt starving even after stopping breastfeeding. Noom definitely helped get me on the right track but my progress became stagnant in 2020 between increased stress, a threenager, grieving our beloved old dog, having a glass of wine most nights and snacking more than I moved throughout the day now working from home.

I still use Noom but once I get my results from Zoe I anticipate I will be switching apps.

**As a reminder, I’m not a physician or healthcare provider, and all information provided here on my site and social media accounts is based on my own personal experience. Please consult your health care team before starting any diet plan.

Zoe vs Noom Eating Plans, Part 1

  • Noom involves counting calories. Well the app does this for you πŸ™‚ as you enter your food journal and helps you find your ideal range. Not surprisingly my losing range is supposedly 1200. One of my endocrinologists over the years suggested that I should stop excercising regularly if it causes me to overeat, since my losing calorie range is likely 1200-1300, maintaining 1300-1400 max and above that I will likely gain.
  • ZOE apparently does not think calorie counting is necessary. So this will be interesting! I will likely still generally keep track each day. ZOE does however involve tracking food, but it is optional (yet encouraged) in the testing phase.
  • I believe they both encourage and offer excercise suggestions (more to come on Zoe). I actually upgraded to a Noom fitness plan which was helpful, but motification and energy is my number 1 enemy πŸ™‚
  • Noom focuses on filling up on low-caolrie density foods. In a way this has definitely helped me feel more full while eating fewer calories – soup, more veggies and yummy but filling complex carbs. In general this approach can work well. But my history of insulin resistance and PCOS complicates this progress. ZOE encourages more fat (depending on one’s specific reaction to food) but Noom discourages fat as it is high-calorie-density.
  • Noom encourages weighing daily. I’m surpised at home much I don’t mind this. It actually helps put weight into perspective – and how much of the variance is water weight. I’ve learned so much about my body’s reaction to food from Noom.

In addition to using Noom, I tried intermittent fasting last fall. The first week seemed fine but then it seems to have backfired and my metabolism slowed after that.

How to Get Started with ZOE at JoinZoe.com

  • Sign up for a monthly plan and fill out their questionarre at JoinZoe.com You will likely then be put on a waitlist until you can get your kit. When I signed up in the late spring, the waitlist was almost 5K people long and every monday they released about 1k kits. It took me about 4 weeks to get my kit.
  • There are 2 main phases to ZOE– a testing phase including an optional 14 day glucose monitor (if you can and choose to be part of the clinical trial) and the results phase. Supposedly it takes about a month to test results after the testing phase is complete so I should get mine soon.
  • Monthly plan cost for me is about $60. I know this isn’t cheap but I’m fortunate we are able to set aside some of our monthly income to support health needs beyond what our insurance covers.
  • You will receive a nice large box with smaller boxes and guides that walk you through testing step by step. You will also receive special muffins that are foundational to their testing in the program.
  • When I signed up it seems that currently you can’t live in New York, New Jersey or Long Island to participate in Zoe.

ZOE Blood Sugar and Gut Health Testing

When you sign up for ZOE they walk through the testing options and everything you need to test is delivered with instructions in your box kit.

  • Zoe Gut Health Testing – Within the first few days I completed a stool samples (which was easier and cleaner than I thought). Outside of bloating I don’t have major gut issues (that I know of), so I’m curious what I’ll learn about my gut health.
  • Blood Sugar Testing: The 2-week continuous blood glucose monitor is optional, but free and provides great data if you agree to be a part of their study. I’m happy to help contribute to a study if it it will help others with insulin resistance!
    • Inside the Zoe test app they give you step by step instructions, inluding when to doanload the FreeStyle LibreLink app and register your blood sugar monitor.
    • Inside the Librelink app you will see blood glucose results. You need to manually scan the sensor ever 8 hours to ensure data is maintain. This is easy to do – simply tap your phone to the monitor on your arm.

  • 14 Day Blood Sugar Monitor – this was easier to apply than I thought and didn’t work! In 24 hours the data seemed accurate based to other (non-ocntinuous) blood sugar testing I’ve done previously. This did not hurt at all to apply and there is a bandage that covers and protects it for 2 weeks.
    • The Zoe team uses the LiebreLink data to analyze results from eating the Muffins and other food you record in the food tracker section of the Zoe test app.
    • I much prefer this to the intra-day finger pricks I used to do when I would check my blood sugar regular when I was having hypoglycemia issues.

  • The Muffins! The Zoe Muffins are a crucial part of the testing. I was very nervous to eat the muffins – I was afraid they would have the affect of a glucose tolerance test (which generally make me feel like cr$p). The special ZOE test kitchen muffins are meant to be a baseline that other ZOE customers eat and test against as well with a specific combination of sugar and fat. They taste a bit rubbery and it takes some effort to eat each portion quickly – the first days of ZOE testing are all about precise timing. On the SECOND day of muffin testing after a certain number of hours ZOE participants also do a special finger prick blood test thats made to measure blood fat response (more on blood fat here). Its so important to PREP your hands and fingers with warm water per the instructions. The blood test has to have extremely accurate timing so you need to ensure you get enough blood from the finger prick (I had to repeat this part which meant more muffins – not fun!)

  • During the two weeks (the last week or so is optional) the Zoe test app gives you prompts and I recommend taking advtange of seeing how your body reacts to food you eat
    • After the days of the muffin testing you record your food intake in the Zoe test app and watch your glucose results in LibreLink app
      • It’s a little annoying to go between both apps to understand results
    • Following along the learning lessings in the Zoe test app daily
    • Optional: follow along with their “tests” to specifically understand your individual glucose reactions

How my Blood Glucose changes based on Carbs, Fat and Protein

I was eager to see how my blood sugar would spike, slowly rise or sharply and slowly fall based on what I eat. Zoe sprinkles in lots of reminders with your daily instructions to help remind you what controlling blood sugar is all about

“Controlling these blood sugar spikes helps to reduce inflammation, sustain energy, control hunger and reduce the risk of idabetes and heart disease”.”

Zoe Test app

All of these outcomes are extremely important to me. I’ve had to learn how to eat since I was 17 but sometimes I’m better than others, and I’m looking foward to getting my unique eating plan wiht the full results in about a few more weeks

“When we look at blood sugar curves, we look at the ehight of the peak and also the amount of time it takes for it to return to your normal level. Each person will respond differently, even to the exact same food.”

ZOE TEST APP

What I learned for monitoring my blood glucose results

  • Not-so-surprising results but great reminders on blood sugar management
    • Eating lots of green and colorful vegetables makes my body and mind happy and doesn’t cause a blood sugar spike. In fact, I believe it helps reduce blood sugar spiking when I eat complex carbohydrates.
    • Eating gluten-free oatmeal and white sweet potatoes (in moderate portions) did not cause my bloodsugar to spike. I knew they made me feel good!
    • Eating fat with carbs can definitely help decrease blood sugar spikes.
    • Protein causes less of a blood sugar rise than carbs.
    • I did not like how I felt eating the muffins and sure enough they caused my blood sugar to rise quickly and stay high for longer. I’m very curious to see how I perform here! I wouldn’t be surprised if it says I didn’t do well on my muffin test.
    • The more controlled my blood sugar was in the morning, the better it was later in the day. This also helped drive better food decisions.
  • Blood Sugar Monitor Results that Suprised me
    • High-fat foods like bacon had a much small blood sugar rise than I anticipated. So adding more fat could potential be key to my eating (and is not encouraged in my experience with Noom) but how much fat is too much? That’s what I’m hoping to uncover more with the personalized Zoe results in a few weeks with their blood fat control test.
    • Even small bites of highly processed foods like cereal or things I swipe from my toddler’s plate (like organic shells and cheese) cause huge spikes for me.
    • My blood sugar responded better to fruits than I thought. Strawberries worked great! Carb-rich bananas weren’t as bad as I thought, especially when paired with nutbutter.
    • An epiphany: not snacking between 3 hour eating intervals are important because if I do snack within that window I’m eating when my blood glucose hasn’t returned to my normal – and therefore I make it go higher, for longer.
    • My fasting morning gluclose was better than I thought. I was nervous it might be in the 90’s or creeping towards 100 but it was consistently in the 80s.
    • Dairy’s impact on my blood sugar varied, but overally an organic string cheese is a stabilizing snack for me – which is good but I’m also trying to reduce my dairy again so I’d like to find an alternative.

I’ll be using this principles to help guide my eating but I’m very much looking forward to see how I compare to others in the test and to get my personalized results! I hope this really helps extend my PCOS weightloss and helps suppor my ongoing health too.

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