Reporter finds trial, error and success in BodyBugg

Published on Thu, Aug 14, 2008 by Tara Nelson

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Reporter finds trial, error and success in BodyBugg

By Tara Nelson

Here's an interesting new health product: The California-based Apex Fitness Group, a subsidiary of 24Fitness, has introduced a biometric armband that accurately tracks a person's daily caloric expenditures to help them reach their fitness goals.

How it works

The device, called the BodyBugg, attaches to the upper arm, monitors four different data points to track calories burned with 92 percent accuracy. It works in tandem with a web-based interface that calculates exactly how many calories an individual has burned and consumed.

At the end of each day, users download data from the armband device via a wireless communicator that connects to any USB port on their PC (the system currently does not have Mac capabilities).

After that, it is simply a matter of moving enough throughout the day and eating less to hit the deficit number.

Effectiveness

The BodyBugg marketing campaign promises weight loss under a simple calorie-in, calorie-out formula, in which an individual who maintains an average 500 caloric deficit per day will lose approximately one pound per week. That may not seem like a lot, but considing there are 52 weeks in a year and that equals out to 52 pounds – a sensible weight loss goal.

So I decided to find out for myself if this gizmo really works or if it’s just another gimick.

I consulted Everyday Fitness owner and physical trainer Josh Lehman who issued me the Bugg and warned that anything more than a 500 caloric deficit per day would be less than ideal.

Of course, I chose to completely ignore his advice for the more-is-better type of thinking that often gets Americans into trouble. I did the seemingly simple math and determined if at a 500 caloric deficit I could lose a pound a week, then at 1,000- or even 1,500-caloric deficits per day, I would lose two or three pounds a week!
To start, I kept up my already predominately healthful diet of fruits, vegetables, eggs, protein shakes, and nitrate-free turkey sandwiches (and lots of strong coffee) but increased my workouts (which mainly consisted of alternating short-distance jogging with long-distance walks twice daily).

The Bugg showed me where my blindspots are – a love of good food, dark beer, expensive cheese and real butter coupled with long days in front of the computer. I was able to start making modifications to my diet right away, substituting more protein for the carbohydrates and fat that seemed to be sneaking in unnoticed.
The beautiful thing about the Bugg was I could continue to eat my favorite foods even if in small quantities. Besides, I knew it would be a cold day in hell before I ingested any margarine-type product full of trans fats and hydrogenated oil (see also: Uffe Ravnskov’s The Cholesterol Myth).

Progress, not perfect

Two and a half sweaty months later, I was angry that I had lost only 2.5 pounds. My efforts, however, weren't completely wasted. A routine weigh-in back at Everyday Fitness confirmed I had actually lost 11.5 pounds of body fat that were (hopefully) converted into muscle tissue.

So, I enlisted the help of my naturopath and primary physician, Dr. Laura Shelton, of Bellingham.

Shelton confirmed that stress and a dramatic change in diet can cause the body to react as if it is starving, causing it to hold on to fat in a sort-of survival response.
This happens when the body produces a stress hormone called cortisol. In small doses, cortisol is important to several bodily functions, however, consistently high levels of cortisol have shown to be related to suppressed thyroid functioning, hyperglycemia, high blood pressure and increased abdominal fat.

So I lightened up on myself a bit. I also tried reducing carbohydrate intake – especially bread and other starches – and conscientiously included some form of protein in every meal, a challenge for me being a pseudo-vegetarian.

In addition, I started cooking at home more rather than eating at restaurants even if I was tired after a long day at the office.

To my delight, I noticed that an hour of doing dishes by hand, cooking my own meals and mopping the kitchen floor burned as many calories as an moderate 30-minute workout and that the stress I had inflicted on myself through overly-disciplinary self talk probably did more harm than good.

I was moving right along until one day the Bugg suddenly expired because I had forgotten to renew my subscription.

It was only then I realized how addicted I had become to the Bugg. The experience left me disoriented, and I felt like I couldn't go on without it, for I am a product of the ADD generation and I need instant gratification.

Room for improvement

One of the biggest disadvantages to the BodyBugg is the cost, which, at $279 plus annual or monthly subscription dues, might be a little prohibitive.

Eventually conceded it would be worth it even if I had to save for a few months to buy it. After all, it’s still cheaper than other formal weight loss programs and users get to create their own menus based on their favorite foods.

Another issue, not so much with the Bugg itself, but with the web-based interface, was with the meal suggestions that screamed corporate product placement.

Let's be clear, I have no problem with the standard 30-25-45 ratio of fat, protein and carbohydrates, but a meal plan that includes three blended Oreo-brand sandwich cookie protein shakes and a dinner of steamed Uncle Ben’s white rice with Kraft-brand processed American cheese sounds absurd. But then again, it might be unreasonable of me to expect a large corporation to subscribe to my fringe-based food conspiracy theories.

Final score: A-

Overall, I found the BodyBugg to be a pragmatic tool for sensibly taking off pounds, reducing body fat and maintaining a healthy level of exercise and caloric balance. The most difficult part was simply remembering to log my meals at the end of the day.

Given it’s simplicity and ease of use, it’s little wonder the product earned the Best of What’s New award in the personal health category from Popular Science magazine in 2005.

Where to get it

The BodyBugg is available for purchase or lease at Everyday Fitness in Blaine. The price includes a three month subscription to the web-based interface, two consultations with a fitness trainer and user support.

Lehman said he has also scheduled a 10-week group weight management program for September utilizing the BodyBugg.

Everyday Fitness is located at 1733 H Street and can be reached by calling 332-7210. Their website is www.everydayfitnessinc.com