Armed for Battle with the Bulge

Personal Calorie Counting System Takes the Guesswork Out of Weight Management

Weight-loss experts have told us for years that the key to successfully losing weight is being conscious of what we eat and how much we move, and that the best way to do that is by keeping a food and exercise journal. There are many food-journal Web sites to help you get an accurate account of how many calories you consume.

But until recently, you had to guess at how many calories you burn throughout the day. The bodybugg, an armband device that collects data using multiple sensors, lets you see – in real time – how many calories you burn throughout the day. An online application lets you log the calories you’ve consumed to compare the numbers.

In simple terms, here’s how it works: The bodybugg is a multi-sensor device that monitors calories burned, the number of steps taken, and other physical activity over a 24-hour period. The calorie counter uses four major components for measurement – an accelerometer (to measure motion), a heat flux sensor (to measure the heat flowing from your body into the environment), core body temperature, and sweat conductivity – all with a level of accuracy of greater than 90 percent. The program consists of the bodybugg armband; a digital display (which can be clipped to the armband or worn like a watch); and a six-month subscription to an online nutrition program that displays your calories consumed, calories burned and, most importantly, the calorie balance (surplus or deficit). A 45-minute phone coaching session is included in the program to help you get started.

“It’s weight management on your terms,” says Kim Slover, national bodybugg services manager for 24 Hour Fitness. “Whether you want to move more and eat more or move less and eat less, you can use the bodybugg any way you want.”

Slover adds that knowing how much you’re moving throughout the entire day, every day, is invaluable.

“The key with bodybugg is the 24-hour expenditure,” she says. “People are so concerned with how much they burn during their workout, but it’s the whole 24 hours that makes all the difference.”

The Upside: What’s great about the bodybugg is that it takes the guesswork out of calculating how many calories you consume and how many you burn. You can set specific goals, which may change from week to week depending on your lifestyle and what you want to achieve. If you know you’re going on vacation for a week, for example, you can adjust your settings to accommodate that extra cocktail or extravagant dinner.

Or if you’re meeting your daily calorie burn goal of, say, 2,400 per day, you may want to try bumping it up to 2,500 calories per day; the bodybugg can adjust your goals accordingly.

The newer version of the bodybugg, which came out in December 2008, is 40 percent lighter and smaller than its bulky predecessor, with a sleeker design. And it is now compatible with Macintosh computers, which was not the case with the older model.

The armband is so comfortable, I sometimes forget I have it on. Except for sleeping and showering, I have managed to wear it constantly, and it’s easily concealed under a sleeve. I’ve come to see my bodybugg as a friendly reminder to move more and an incentive to meet my daily goals.

The Downside: The “Calories Consumed” feature takes some getting used to. It was tedious recording my food at first until my personal phone coach, April, showed me how to create calorie counts for entire meals.

If you eat roughly the same things for breakfast, snacks and lunch every day, this feature makes logging your calories a one-step breeze.

The online feature is not yet compatible with Mozilla Firefox, so you’ll need to use Internet Explorer for the Web-based component.

Lastly, the bodybugg doesn’t do the work for you (drat!). Unfortunately, you still have to get off the couch to see results.

The bodybugg personal calorie management system ranges from $199 for the armband alone to $298 for the armband and digital display, and may be purchased at a 24 Hour Fitness Club or through 24hourfitness.com or apexfitness.com.

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