Body Media / Body Bugg – Review

BodyMedia Armband
BodyMedia Armband

I think I’ve found the most amazing fitness/weight loss tool EVER.  It’s a little device by a company called BodyMedia (they make the Bodybugg too just FYI) that straps to your left bicep and with a series of nifty sensors, records minute by minute data about your daily calorie expenditure,  fitness level and sleep patterns.

BodyMedia
BodyMedia Armband strap (size medium)
Sensors - Measure galvanic skin response, skin tempereature and heat flux

I purchased this tool to help me get back in control of my body.  A while ago I was on a medication that slowly caused me to gain a bit of weight over a 5 months period and I was having trouble getting back in the game once I went off it.

I tried using some calorie counting software I found for free online but despite being diligent about recording calories and working out nothing significant was happening.    I needed a less generic weight loss formula; something more tailored to my unique body and weekly workout routines.

Chart taken from companies website - not my data

Here’s how BodyMedia helped me.   First off the information it provides me each day is vital and has been a revelation.  It turns out I burn a lot more calories that I thought I did.  When I used a generic formula online to determine how many calories I should be eating each day the number  generated was too low.   For all the rushing about I do  and for how much I exercise I needed to be eating more.  During one busy day  I actually had to up my calorie intake by 700.  I’d never have know that were it not for my BodyMedia device.  Now it’s so easy to have an accurate 500 calorie deficit each day and I never go to sleep feeling hungry.

Guessing how many calories I burn doing certain exercises is a thing of the past.   Now all I do is let my BodyMedia device monitor what’s going on and it tells me what I burned during various activities.  No more looking up exercises online and guessing how hard I worked out.  All I do is sync my armband to my computer a few times a day to see where I’m at and and it tells me how I’m doing.  I was dragging my feet yesterday and didn’t burn as many calories as I had hoped.  I was able to see this on my computer and then popped out for an evening walk to rectify the situation.  Problem solved.

It’s also hugely motivating.  I love data and seeing my energy expenditure spike during a run makes me want to keep going and push myself a little harder.   I find myself doing a lot more physical activity because I hate seeing low flat line areas on the graph (which is what happens if I’m sitting around on my computer for an hour or more.)

Secondly I’ve learned that I need to ramp up my vigorous activity level.  (The BodyMedia device records both moderate and vigorous activity.)  My goal is 30 minutes of vigorous activity each day but I wasn’t hitting that at all.  I was doing a lot of moderate activity but you need to really kick it into gear for a bit to give your heart a workout, so now I go for daily runs and have introduced some more advanced heart pumping kettlebell routines into my workout routine.

Another eye opener for me was that I’m not sleeping well.   Normally I tell people that I get between 7-8 hours of sleep a night, but it turns out I’m no where close to this.  For several days I’ve been averaging about 4.5 – 5.5hours of restful sleep.   I might lay down for 8 or 9 hours a night but that time isn’t spent in dreamland.  Getting proper rest at night is huge so I’m investigating ways to get better quality sleep.  Ramping up my vigorous activity levels seems to be helping but it’s still in the early stages and I’m still experimenting to see what helps most.

After a week of using this device I dropped a pound – just like it had predicted I would.  I was trying to do this blind on my own for three months and my weight didn’t shift.  Now, thanks to my BodyMedia device things are finally working like they’re supposed to.   It feels effortless and I never feel hungry.  This thing is worth its weight in gold to me.

Thankfully I’m not looking to loose a lot of weight (my goal is about 6 pounds).  I’m already in a healthy weight category but I want to get back to what I weighed earlier this year.  Once I’ve met my goal I will change the settings on the Bodymedia website to focus on maintaining my weight and/or  just being increasingly more active.  It will still continue to be a useful tool long after I’ve  met my weight loss goals.

BodyMedia sells several different device packages to suit each individual.   I purchased what you see up above:  just the armband and access to their subscription based website.

You can also purchase a device + a display monitor (above).  You can sync this up with your device to get an on the go reading of how many steps you’ve taken, calories burned etc.  I decided not to go for this option.  It’s EXPENSIVE (close to $100.00), kind of cheap if you believe the online reviews, and you have to keep syncing it to your armband to see how you’re doing.   Also I hear that the battery doesn’t last very long (some say it can’t be removed to be replaced too which is lame.  Please correct me if I’m wrong though.)

I find it effortless to just upload the info from my device onto my laptop so I’m actually glad I didn’t go for the display.  It’s not necessary if you ask me.

The company also sells a bluetooth enables device that you can sync up to your smartphone, so if you already own a smartphone and feel like paying a little extra you can opt for this model instead.

Cons

Just like most things in life there are a few down sides to be aware of before deciding to purchase this device.  I’m going to list them here so you can decide for yourself if this will work for you.

Take it off when driving

1.  It does not record calories and exercise properly when you’re driving.  I took my cat to the vet and during the 40 minute drive it recorded me as doing a serious work out.  Not true.  I was sitting in the car doing absolutely nothing.  Now when I’m driving I simply take the device off my arm until I get out of the car.  It fills in the gaps with a low calorie estimate (what I’d burn sitting infront of the computer basically) so this way I get a much more accurate reading.

2.  I suspect that it’s not so good at recording my energy expenditure when I’m working out with weights.  I use a series of heavy kettlebells to do a hard workout every other day.  I’ll be gasping for breath between sets with my heart racing.  It feels like I’m working harder than I do when I’m running but the Bodymedia device still records my efforts as only moderate.  Meh.  I don’t really care – I’d rather it underestimate that overestimate my energy expenditure, but for those who demand an accurate calorie count for resistance type training then this might not work for you.

3.  You can’t utilize the device without the companies (paid) subscription based service plan.  Boo.  You can not upload the information your device gathers without this paid service.  You CAN purchase a display device to show you what your Bodymedia armband is gathering in real time, but you still need to clear the data off your device after a certain number of days or else it won’t work.   It’s irritating that they designed things this way, but I am actually quite enjoying their online website, and if you purchase a year membership it’s quite cheap,  so I can’t complain too loudly.

4.  This might be obvious, but here goes.   If you’re interested in loosing weight YOU have to track what you’re eating and log the data onto the website (or keep it in a notebook or something.)  The device will tell you how many calories you burn but it’s up to you to make sure that you exercise more and eat less so you have a calorie deficit each day so you can loose weight.  This isn’t really a con because this is exactly what I was expecting, but if you expect it to beep when you’ve eaten too much you’ll be sorely disappointed.

5.  For an accurate reading of how you’re doing you really need to wear it all the time – even when asleep.    Consequently you’ve got to be cool with having the armband strapped to your left bicep all the time.   It doesn’t phase me in the least and people don’t seem to care when they see it.   (I get the occasional person asking what it is but I’m happy to sing its praises.)  It was uncomfortable wearing it for the first two days (my arm got a kind of numb sore feeling at first) but this went away after day two and now I don’t feel it at all.  Seriously – it’s like it’s not even there.  I love it!

Additional Info

At first I was torn between buying a Bodybugg vs a BodyMedia device.  They look deceptively similar so it was hard to choose.  Both are made by the same company but use different subscription based websites.

BodyBugg
BodyMedia

I ultimately went with the BodyMedia device because it’s the only one that gives you feedback on your sleep patterns.  Also the reviews online seemed more favorable for the BodyMedia device (less complaints) and users liked the BodyMedia website interface better than the BodyBugg one.    That’s what I based my decision on if you’re curious.

Where do I get one?

You have several options if you’re considering purchasing a BodyMedia Armband.  BodyMedia.com has them for sale and I hear that Costco and Bestbuy does too (if you live in the U.S.) but I purchased mine from a seller on ebay.com.  I paid close to $200.00 for the armband (shipping = an additional $30.00) which included a prepaid year long subscription which is a pretty good deal.  I also got an extra armband thrown in for free.

What sucked is that the seller advertised the device as factory sealed, and when it arrived it clearly wasn’t.  I was a bit ticked of by this, but whatever.  I  saved some money and it’s working fine  so it’s not worth pitching a fit over (although I hate less than honest ebay sellers so I won’t recommend them here).

Tip:  If you browse ebay or kijiji you can sometimes find used models for a fraction of the price.  You’ll still need to purchase your own online subscription but you can save money by going this route.

So tell me, have you had an opportunity to try out a Bodymedia Armband or a Bodybugg system (as seen on the biggest looser)?  What do you use yours for?  Has it changed the way you work out too?

Enjoy!

P.S.  Please check to make sure that the subscription based website works in your country before you place an order for one of these devices!