Gadling gear review – Bodybugg personal calorie management system

We are 7 weeks away from the time of year where we all commit to losing all those excess pounds. And like most new years resolutions, by the second week of January, most of us will be back to just dealing with the flab.

Frequent travelers have it even harder – when large chunks of your week are spent at bad hotels or the airport food court, it is pretty tough to stay healthy. Sure, people with a decent amount of discipline will always manage to find a salad at the airport, but more often than not, a healthy meal on the road will be the airline snack box or another night at the hotel restaurant.The Bodybugg personal calorie management system combines a high tech sensor with an online tool and personal trainer. The unit is about 1 1/2″ by 1 1/2″. It attaches to your arm using the included armband (2 different sizes are included).

On the back of the unit are two metal sensors, on the side is a MiniUSB connector, and on the front are 2 LED lights and a button. The first step in getting the Bodybugg setup is a brief sign up procedure on their site. You tell them some basic personal information and pick a goal. That goal is then the objective of the system. The sensors pick up your skin temperature, heat flux, galvanic skin response, steps and motion.

To complete the Bodybugg system, you can add a digital monitoring device, which communicates wirelessly with the Bodybugg unit. The monitor can be worn as a pendant or as a wristwatch and displays your steps, calories burned and the time. The digital display makes it easier to track your progress, without having to hook the Bodybugg up to a PC.

I took the Bodybugg unit for a two week test, and my impressions are much more positive than I had expected from a fitness gadget. For starters, there is the geek factor – the device is actually cool to use. What impressed me most, was how accurate it was able to measure my activity. After a busy day, I can almost see down to the minute when I was doing something that actually burned off some calories.

At the end of the day (or whenever you are near your PC), you plug the Bodybugg into your computer, access your account, and download the data from the Bodybugg to the web based program.

Once transferred to your account, you can see exactly when you were burning calories, and once you tell it (honestly) what you consumed, it’ll tell you exactly how well you are doing. The system shows whether you have a calorie surplus or a deficit, making it easy to determine your target for the rest of the day (or the next day).

To make life easier, the program also creates a perfectly balanced diet with items that will help achieve your goal. The suggested meals are surprisingly decent, though they do suggest using some of their own branded food.

Of course, not many people will lose weight by just following their daily routine, so the web interface also recommends some basic exercise. Like the food, these workout sessions are tailored to your personal preferences. During the sign-up procedure, you are asked a bunch of questions, and at the time those seem rather unimportant, but once you start actively using the product, you’ll notice that it paid close attention to your answers.

The web interface knows thousands of different food items, from the basics, down to specific items like candy bars and fast food products. You can also manually enter items if you happen to know their nutritional values.

So, how does this whole thing come together when you are on the road? For starters, you can wear the Bodybugg all day long – it is surprisingly comfortable, and its battery life is good for several days. The unit itself snaps out of the armband, which means you can pass through airport security without setting off the metal detector or having to remove the armband.

Being able to track your activity on a trip is fantastic, and you burn off a lot more calories than you’d think walking through the airport dragging your luggage. Of course, once on board your flight, you’ll notice a total lack of activity, as unfolding your tray table does not burn off that many calories. Those are times you’ll learn that it pays to take a brief stroll up and down the aisle.

Especially if you are on the road a lot, you can use the technology behind the Bodybugg to track your weight goals, and tweak your activity and food. Once you get used to the routine, you’ll learn which foods to stay away from, and whether or not it makes sense to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Because the Bodybugg tracks activity so accurately, you really can make simple changes and see an immediate payback.

By adding the personal trainer, you get the same benefits of a daily gym visit, without actually having to visit the gym – once again, this is perfect for people on the road a lot. You can contact your personal trainer by phone or even by email.

Final thoughts

The Bodybugg unit currently retails for $199 (normally $249), and comes with a free 45 minute one-on-one personal consultation with a trainer from 24 Hour Fitness. The digital display currently costs $79 (normally $99).

The unit includes a one year subscription to the online service. After that one year, you can pay $9.95/month or $79.95/year. Additional coaching sessions cost $29.95 each, or 10 for $199.

The geek in me loves the Bodybugg – I love being able to track exactly what I did, and what kind of impact certain foods had on my daily calories. Whether or not I’ll commit to actually using it to burn off some excess pounds all depends on how much discipline I have left on December 31st, but I can see myself keeping a close eye on how I’m doing, and making the necessary changes to my lifestyle. Being able to do that along with a little high-tech wizardry only makes it more fun.

PROS: Very accurate, comprehensive web site, one-on-one coaching option
CONS: Subscription only for one year

The best part of the device is actually how independent you can be – you don’t need to stay in touch with your coach, and you don’t need to visit the gym on a daily basis. The Bodybugg allows you to be 100% in charge of your lifestyle, and only get extra help when required.