Review: bodybugg calorie management system

by Kara on March 11, 2010

UPDATE May 5, 2010 REGARDING CUSTOMER SERVICE, see end of post

UPDATE May 9, 2011 REGARDING BODYBUGGSP, see end of post

I first heard about the bodybugg in September 2009, when my husband told me his boss was using one and loved it. Stephen knew it would appeal to my obsessive compulsive side. The idea behind the bodybugg is simple. You wear an armband with a small monitor that keeps track of the calories you burn and the steps you take. At the end of the day, you upload the data from your armband device into the online bodybugg program. You also enter all the food you have been eating into the program, and it keeps track of all the nutritional information, including your caloric intake. That is basically all there is to it, you compare your calories burned to your calories consumed. If you burn more than you consume, you lose weight.

My biggest concern, when deciding whether to purchase a bodybugg, was whether the measurement of calories burned was accurate. The bodybugg website provides the following explanation of how the system works: “In addition to measuring motion and steps, the armband is able to see how much you are sweating, your skin temperature and the rate at which heat is being dissipated from your body.” It probably goes without saying that there is no way it (or any other device) could be 100% accurate. The more important issue is probably whether the difference between calories burned and calories consumed is accurate. My understanding is that they used these activity monitors on the tv show The Biggest Loser, which gave me a little bit more confidence that they are fairly close to the mark. I finally decided to go ahead and buy one in mid-October. Now that I have used it for several months, I can say that it has been accurate enough that I have been able to achieve my goals thus far.

The Good

There is probably a certain type of person for whom this device is appropriate, and I seem to be that type. I like to have a formula where I can plug in numbers and have a fairly good idea of what my results will be. I have been on Weight Watchers, which I think is an excellent program, but balancing my exercise against the points I consumed was always a pain for me because it seemed very imprecise. What I like about the bodybugg is that I don’t really have to calculate anything. I just provide the program with input, and it does the calculating for me. It has a fairly large database of foods and it is easy to add your own foods to the program. It can provide you with a breakdown of your calories – how much is carbs, protein and fat. It keeps track of the steps you take and helps you set activity goals. It can also tell you if you are being honest about the food you consume, if you are not losing the weight that your activity and eating suggests you should. It provides a wealth of information, but even if you distill it down to its most basic level – calories consumed and calories burned – that information will be enough to help you reach your goals. The rest is gravy.

The Bad

I’d like to preface this section by saying I know this sounds like a long list of cons for the device, but overall, I would still call this a positive review. It’s just that I think all these issues are very important to consider before you decide to purchase a bodybugg. Even with these problems, I would still buy the bodybugg, but they might convince another person that it is not for them.

COST:
The biggest problem with the bodybugg is that it is not cheap. I paid $200 for mine, and another $100 for the digital display, although sometimes there are sales. I felt strongly about having the digital display, so I could keep track of my calorie burning throughout the day, and make any eating or exercise adjustments that I thought necessary. The armband does not have any sort of display, probably to keep it as small as possible. I wear the digital display on a belt clip, and I really like having it. I don’t think I would like the bodybugg as much if I didn’t have the display.

But more important than the initial price is the continued cost of using the online program. The bodybugg comes with a three-month subscription to the service. After that, you must pay a monthly fee in order to continue using it. I chose the cheapest option, which is to pay for a one year subscription, which is $79.95. Personally, I think this is ridiculous. I understand that this is one of the areas in which they make their real money, but forcing people to pay for a subscription service without which their expensive device will become a paperweight seems very greedy to me. Because I cannot install the full program on my computer and use it freely, there is a very good chance that at some point in the future I won’t be able to access the website and my bodybugg will indeed become a paperweight. The bodybugg could be an extremely useful device for many people struggling with their weight, but the continued cost makes it impractical or simply out of reach for many of the people who could most benefit from it.

In addition to the three-month subscription, you also get one free coaching call with the bodybugg folks. Although I did glean some useful information about the program’s features, the call seemed focused more on sales than on helping me. They try to sell you supplements that you can buy in their online store and they also try to sell you more coaching calls. Here is an extremely useful device that could help a lot of people, and they have made it simply part of a larger sales pitch. It really rubbed me the wrong way and it probably had the opposite effect that they intended, at least on me. Even if they sell some supplements that may be good products, the sales pitch turned me off so much that I would never buy any of them. There are a lot of excellent sources for vitamins and minerals.

SOFTWARE:
We had a lot of trouble getting the bodybugg synced with the software on my Mac. Although the program is online, there are still some components that need to be downloaded from their website apparently. I had seen reviews on Amazon saying that bodybugg didn’t work with Mac, but others said it did and the bodybugg website said it did. After much frustration, we finally figured out that I had to run my Safari browser in 32-bit mode rather than the standard 64-bit mode. Once we made that change, we were able to get things going. There was nothing about this in the manual. Stephen found it on a users’ forum somewhere.

Occasionally the program will crash my browser, but the larger problem has been program updates. There would be periods of time when every single time I tried to connect my bodybugg to my computer to upload my calories burned data, it would say I needed to download an update and restart my computer. This got very frustrating, so I sent an email to customer service. They sent me a very long response with this long list of things I needed to do, including uninstalling and reinstalling everything. After hunting around on a user forum, I realized that all I needed to do if I got the update message was to fully close Safari and reopen it. This can still be a pain if I have a lot of windows open with things I want to keep track of, but it is better than restarting my computer all the time for these “updates”. But any time I have had a problem, I have had to figure out the fix myself. Lately, though, I haven’t been getting the update messages, so I am hoping they have fixed that problem, although I have though that before.

CUSTOMER SERVICE:
Shortly after I got my bodybugg, the plastic clip for wearing my display device on my pants cracked. It was still wearable, though annoying, so I procrastinated about contacting them for a replacement. However, in January, the clip cracked again, breaking an entire section off. This rendered it unusable. I contacted online customer service and explained the problem, asking for a replacement. They never bothered to get back to me. I could have kept bugging them, but I just ordered a replacement clip ($7.95 I think) so I could start using the display again. But I am sure they didn’t get back to me because it would have cost them money to send me a replacement clip, and they seem to be more about making money than keeping customers happy.

Summary

Despite the negatives, the bodybugg is an extremely useful device. I would definitely recommend it, but caution that it is not cheap and it is helpful to be computer savvy. I am definitely glad I got mine, because it is doing what it advertises. It helps me compare the difference between the calories I consume and those I burn, and that is all I need it to do in order to lose weight. That being said, if another company came out with a similar product that worked as well and did not require a continued subscription to use their software, I would switch. I believe there are some other devices on the market, but currently, this one is probably the most accurate according to what I’ve read.

UPDATE: I emailed customer service on February 15, 2010, regarding the defective belt clip. Today, May 5, 2010, I received an answer! That has to be some sort of record for slow responses. Most of the email I received had nothing to do with the issue I raised: “The myapex accounts are private to each individual and are self-managed accounts. To cancel a scheduled monthly order, log-in with your username and password at www.myapex.com.” She did say that I should call Technical Support for warranty items. It really took them TWO AND A HALF MONTHS to respond and tell me to contact someone else? So, let me reiterate what I said in my original review above. Bodybugg is NOT about customer service. No company should take two and half months to respond to a customer, although I guess that’s a step up from not responding at all. The bodybugg is a great device, but be aware that if you have problems, you are likely on your own.

UPDATE: May 9, 2011 – In the past year or so, Apex released a new version of the bodybugg, called bodybuggSP, that is compatible with smart phones, including the iPhone. There is no discount to switch to this one if you’ve already paid full price for a bodybugg previously (although it is on sale for $189 at the moment). I did ask (and actually received a response) and was told that you have to pay full price any time you upgrade. Reviews of the bodybugg app on the iPhone have been abysmal at best. Customers complain about frequent disconnection problems betweent the bodybugg and the phone (if they can get it to sync at all), and the user interface is regarded as clunky. Since Apex customer service is basically non-existent, it sounds like there is not a single reason to “upgrade” to the bodybuggSP. I actually stopped using my bodybugg, because the monthly fee (with no customer service) was getting on my nerves and the food entry interface is just terrible. This renders my bodybugg useless since you can’t use it without paying the monthly subscription fee. It’s too bad this company has put profit before providing a useful product and providing support for it. The bodybugg is a great product, but in my opinion, it just isn’t worth the money or the hassle. Here’s hoping another company is able to do this right. If you have any suggestions for similar devices, feel free to post them.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Margot March 12, 2010 at 6:29 am

I quite doing all the calculations in my diary, so it wouldn’t work for me, but I’m for going with whatever works for you.

Have you tried Google Chrome? It runs on Mac and when one tab crashes, it doesn’t crash all the others. I’m told.

Becky April 22, 2010 at 5:55 am

I found your review very helpful–Thank you! I’ve been wearing a BodyBugg for only 2 weeks and I love it! I am the kind of person who responds to the simplicity of the Numbers Game—Calories In must be less than Calories Out. While it is not entirely convenient to have to hook up to my PC to check it and can see where the digital display would be an asset. For me the device acts as an Honesty Meter throughout the day. I am much more aware of my food choices and my activity opportunities. I love the control that’s left up to me to decide how I want to “spend” my calories. I eat more if I make healthier choices but sometimes it’s worth a few extra trips up and down the stairs or 10 min. on the elliptical to eat the cookie. I can see where the subscription can get costly but I have wasted hundreds more on health club memberships I didn’t use, buying umpteen wardrobes to match my increasing or shrinking dimensions, and on excess food that was sending me to an early grave. This is worth every penny in the new found hope I feel and the success after struggling with so many highly restrictive diets.

Beth May 7, 2010 at 4:53 am

Great review and thanks for pointing out many issues to evaluate before making a purchase. Thank you!

John June 28, 2010 at 9:09 am

Nothing but fustration, stopped working after 2 weeks.
On the phone with Tech support for a total of 2 hrs trying to repair and reset it via computer to no avail waited 2 weeks to receive replacement. Total waiting time on my tries to contact Tech support, 2 hrs. 40 min, asked to speak with a supervisor told he would call back, still waiting. If aggravation burns calories I should be at my goal weight by now. If you purchase this, GOOD LUCK

Dorcas Smith September 19, 2010 at 10:41 am

I will not buy…$80 a year for a subscription, same as serius radio. Not. Too many issues for me and too expensive. I have an Omron pedometer, which for $21.00 I count my steps (miles or kilometers) and calorie use. I’d love the heart rate info, but again the cost again is way too high, for the inital purchase & then to operate the software.

elizabeth October 6, 2010 at 5:17 am

Thanks for all the great information. I was researching bodybugs yesterday, and there seems to be a really wide price range for them. Do you think the customer service is that bad no matter where you buy them?

Lori November 8, 2010 at 3:13 pm

I have had my bodybug for 45 days and I do love it, however, you are correct, Customer Service is NOT their strong suit. My bug keeps shutting off, while I’m exercising, working, walking, anything. They tried to reprogram it but it is shutting off more frequently as the days go by, today already 7 times. Customer services answer is for me to drive one hour away from my home to have it shipped back from a UPS store, (there isn’t one near me) then when they get it back they will send me another one GROUND, to replace it, so I have to go without something I paid $175.00 for a week maybe more, while my three month subscription time keeps running. They could send me one overnight with a call tag for the old one but that suggestion was denied. The FREE program at medhelp will do the same thing if you enter your activities, and they have a larger food database, I am ready to ask for a refund at this point.

RM April 26, 2011 at 1:24 am

Very happy with the bugg!

Thankfully I haven’t had to deal with their customer service department yet (and hopefully never I have never have to going by yours and others comments).

My review here: http://www.strengthreview.net/2011/04/bodybugg-review.html

Theresa June 20, 2011 at 4:11 pm

My BodyBugg too has become a paperweight. I have had mine since 2009 and once I even bought the yearly subscription. But as I tend to go back and forth on using it — I agree with you on ALL THE CONS — the subscription was up before I knew it and I had not used it more than I had… total waste of money. I did love the way I could find out how many calories I burned and how many steps I took. I never got the food log to work very well at all. I have been searching the we as of late hoping against hope that someone out there has put up a compatible site that works well with the bodybugg to upload the info for free…. i can dream can’t I?

nicholos miller March 1, 2012 at 9:21 pm

I purchased a bodybugg back in june 2011. within a month the straps had came unglued. i called customer service and had replacements within 3 days, PLUS 3 additional months added to my subscription. but as many have said on here, the biggest issue with the bodybugg is its need to sync with the website, or else. well if you look on facebook for freethebugg, there is a group of guys who got the v3 and i believe the v2 to sync, clear, and view data in simple graphs for FREE! It was the tipping point for me to get one, once i knew about them i felt comfortable getting it, knowing i had a way to still use my 180 dollar bugg.

nicholos miller March 1, 2012 at 9:23 pm

forgot to mention that they are currently working on the sp version, but i don’t think it is ready yet. just the v2 and v3.

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