In the game of weight loss a large part of the changes we see on the scale is a simple issue of burn more calories than you consume, and voila, weight loss. This has been clearly illustrated by the smash success American Pop Culture phenomenon of The Biggest Loser. Problem is, people tend to over estimate how many calories they burn and under estimate how many calories they eat. Perhaps this is the reason we all think weight loss is so illusive. We just cannot get real…or simply don’t know how to get the right data.
Enter the Bodybugg, produced by Apex Fitness, featured on The Biggest Loser and sold at 24 Hour Fitness. The Bodybugg tries to help people get an accurate sense of how many calories they are expending. It is a small device that is worn on the body, and it uses multiple methods to figure out calories burned.
- Accelerometer: The BB tracks physical movement and calculates expenditure based on this and gravity.
- Heat flux: The BB measures heat output-in general, the more heat you put out, the more calories you’re expending. (This does not mean that just feeling hot burns calories; this means that your body is generating heat through higher rates of activity, so you can put down the habanero peppers and forget about the sauna for fat loss). This technology was patented in the U.S. in 1996.
- Galvanic skin response: Unfortunately for all the people who have stuck a fork in a toaster, the body conducts electricity. The GSR monitor measures the conductivity of the skin, which can be affected by physical exertion.
- Skin temperature: The BB keeps track of skin temperature, measuring changes and correlating these with exertion.
Pros and cons of the Bodybugg
The main advantage of the BB is that it can easily be used and worn by the average person. It is not much bigger than an iPod. People who struggle with their DVD player may find the controls challenging to master, so I recommend finding an eleven-year-old child to handle this part. Haha. The device also provides immediate feedback – you will know what’s going on right away, rather than having to wait until you can input it into a spreadsheet, for example. Although, the BB does allow you to upload your stats to your PC, a bonus for those of us who like to track their progress and make graphs and grids and silly stuff like that.
The main disadvantage is that it is somewhat expensive. The Bodybugg with armband and digital display is $480. This includes online food logging with custom meal plans, a 3-month subscription to the web-based program, and 2 phone sessions with a Bodybugg coach. You can get it for $199.00 at 24 Hour Fitness, though, and that is definitley a much better deal.
Does the Bodybugg work to help you achieve your fitness goals?
The BB site contains plenty of testimonials, which are standard fare for any infomercial. The rest of the site is rich in visuals, but scant in scientific details. A review of the available peer-reviewed research on the subject did not turn up much, although the BB was recognized as the “Best of What’s New” by Popular Science magazine in 2005.
It may be too soon to tell whether this device really does help people meet their fitness goals. However, other research indicates that people given regular feedback and measurement tools tend to report that these tools help them pay more attention to what they’re doing. This is especially true if they share the use of these tools with others, such as through online forums or training partnerships. So, the secret to fat loss might just be good ol’ interpersonal relationships and paying attention to what goes in your mouth. Still, measurement nerds may enjoy seeing their numbers. And it sure beats having Suzanne Powter tell you what to do.