I'll Try Anything Once: BodyMedia Armband

Can an armband designed for weight loss actually teach me something about myself?
Publish date:
July 22, 2011
health, exercise, weight, snowboarding, spin, trampoline, bodymedia armband

Despite having never won a game of Trivial Pursuit or taking any math or science classes in college (thank you, art school), I’ve always been obsessed with facts, data and statistics.

Things like:

The average person falls asleep in 7 minutes. (I’ve done this while also having sex. Beat that “average person.”)

The smallest mountain range in the world is Sutter Buttes (Northern California represent!).

There are 336 dimples on a golf ball (and here I thought the only thing my ass and a golf ball had in common was getting relentlessly pounded by old white guys).

You get the picture. Another thing I’m obsessed with, which you may have figured out from the above list, is ME!

But dear reader, one thing has always eluded me: how to bring those two amazing and oh-so important obsessions together. Until now.

Enter: The BodyMedia FIT armband.

What Is It?

It’s an armband system designed for weight management. A.k.a. The last thing on earth I ever thought I’d be into. I mean, let’s be real, other than that one year of graduate school where I only ate Special K in a manner that came very close to having an eating disorder, I’ve never even been on a diet.

But when I saw a friend wearing one and she told me it kept track of calories burned, steps taken, time spent doing physical activity and, best of all, sleep duration, I was like, “Wait. I can wear this armband and it will tell me facts? Facts about Me? ME ME ME ME ME ME ME?”

I think we all know what happened next.

How It Works

When my armband arrived in the mail, I skipped the deep read of all of the information that accompanied it. Instead, I did the super quick set-up on my computer and slipped that puppy on my arm. I’ve since (fine, just now and for this article) found out that it uses four sensors to capture 5000+ readings -- from heat to sweat to calories burned -- every minute of the day.

So if you’re walking up a super steep hill (which, hello, I live in San Francisco and am seemingly doing ALL THE TIME), this armband actually recognizes that and acknowledges that is more of a calorie burn than if you’re just walking through the grocery store parking lot.

What I Learned

Here’s the thing. I hate exercise. So when I first started wearing the armband, I was like, “This is going to be depressing because I don’t do things like ‘go running’ or ‘take aerobics.” But, um, guys? Turns out I actually DO like exercise and just didn’t realize that all of the fun things I love to do actually count as such. And you probably do too!

For example:


Okay, sure, I’ve rationalized a cheeseburger after a long day of riding with, “Well, I did snowboard all day,” because I guess I realized snowboarding was better for me than sitting on the couch for six hours straight watching “Storage Wars” (last Saturday’s activity of choice). However, I never really knew how good or bad it was for me until I went out during a crazy, wet blizzard and rode all day long wearing the armband.

Calories Burned: 1,614

Physical Activity: 5 hours and 33 minutes (Only 19 of which were calculated as “vigorous,” which I kind of call bullshit on. My thighs were burning!)

Steps Taken: 10,745 (Snowboarding apparently counts as taking steps. Works for me.)

Hey, waiter! Can I get some bacon on that cheeseburger?

Even better, it turned out other things I already do are "good for me!" Like…

Spin Class (45 mins): 534 calories & 6,198 steps

Tennis (1.5 hrs): 583 calories & 7,543 steps

Trampoline Aerobics (1 hr): 497 calories & 4,011 steps

Going to a Baseball Game (4 hrs): 647 calories & 2,314 steps.

And yes, I consumed more calories than I burned. All in beer. Go me! Go Giants!

And while I clearly didn't change my eating/drinking/exercising behaviors since my goal wasn’t to lose weight, having this data definitely made me look at food and drink differently. Five ounces of Sauvignon Blanc has about 110 calories. If I’m going to drink four glasses (which, let’s face it, I am), that’s one hour of trampoline aerobics.

Am I going to drink less wine? No. Am I going to work harder to earn it? Maybe!

Counting Sleep

Remember in the beginning when I told you that the armband monitored sleep duration and efficiency? You guys, it’s amazing. By far my favorite part of the armband.

I’ve always considered myself a really good sleeper. Like if there were an Olympics for sleeping, I assumed I was a gold medal contender. At least eight hours a night. Or so I thought. Turns out that while I’m lying down for an average of 8.5 hours each night, I’m only getting about 6.5 hours of sleep. The worst part is that there are nights I wake up almost 20 times! (Yes, it tells you all of this.)

And while not sleeping sucks, being able to prove I didn't sleep? Awesome.

Take, for example, this graph from the night the a-hole in my ski house refused to move his car so that my friend was forced to illegally leave her truck on the road where a snowplow could crash into it during a insane blizzard. I was worried, angry, upset, repeat. All night long. And thanks to the BodyMedia FIT, I could totally prove it!

I mean, I didn’t email this to him or anything, but oh did I want to.

So…Should You Get One?

Whether you want to understand your body a little better or are actually trying to, as my mother always says, “lose a few L-Bs,” this may be a good choice for you. Physical activity and sleep are different for all of us, and this system lets you see how your body works and which activities you're getting the most from. Plus, my friend who uses the food tracker swears it helps with weight loss and management. I was just too lazy to use that part of it. Oops!

Even better, you can get all the data while you’re on the go using the Bluetooth wireless technology and your smartphone. I’ve actually had instructors stop me after spin class and demand to know how many calories I burned. (Only one of whom then looked at me with disappointment and sighed, "That's it?")

But What About ME?

I’m not gonna lie. There were moments when I was a little self-conscious wearing the armband. I was worried people would judge me or see me differently than how I am, like a “fat girl” who was trying to lose weight. (Yes, this is shallow, but whatever, I’m being honest, and obviously, a little insecure.) But the reward of getting statistical proof of my accomplishments after a workout and knowing how many steps I took in a day or how many hours I slept in a night was well worth it.

I'm now able to make decisions about my choices based on fact. And that, to me, is huge. Plus, it’s not really *that* noticeable. I’m just a narcissist who thinks people pay way more attention to me than they actually do. Now, if only there were a way to measure that...

Have any of you ever used an armband system before? How did it work? Let me know in the comments!