Rather than hand out your hard-earned money to the multi-billion dollar weight loss industry, choose a few of the alternatives listed below to customize your own weight-loss program (WLP). Weight loss is never easy, so make choices that fit your style and needs. This is not a one-size-fits-all program – no pun intended.

Personal Trainer
A personal trainer helps you develop a unique program to fulfill your fitness goals. Trainers are one of the most expensive pieces of a WLP; you are paying for their experience & education. Sessions can be scheduled as often as daily or as seldom as a few times a month. Finding a trainer is easy because many are available through your local fitness center.

VERSUS: Mentor
Learn from others. Do you know someone that successfully met and maintained a fitness goal? It doesn’t need to be a dramatic change for the person, just a path that s/he has continued to pursue. Find out what they did; ask if they can help you get started. Most people that have kicked a bad-health vice are ready to share with others. Offer to join him/her during a regular workout. A mentor can be a great motivator – keeping you accountable and offering advice along the way.

Gym Membership
Fitness centers and gyms tout convenience, modern facilities, and large equipment selection. However, most members don’t visit the gym on a regular basis. With automatic membership due payments, the centers have no incentive to keeps members motivated.

VERSUS: Home-Based Activity
Start your routine with activities you can do at home or at a local park/free venue. If you keep a regular workout schedule, then you can re-evaluate a gym membership. As for all the equipment, see below for other options.

Dumbell/Free-Weight Set
One of the first things we tend to do when we start a fitness endeavor is to purchase tools (or toys) that we think we need to achieve our goal. Free weight sets offer the user graduated challenges, increasing weight resistance as fitness level increases. You will need to know proper form in order to maximize the benefits of free weights.

VERSUS: Resistance Band
Rubber resistance bands are one of the most versatile tools in the fitness arsenal. They can be used for resistance/weight training, stretching, and balance exercises. Similar to the free weight sets, the user will need to know proper form for various movements in order to maximize the benefits of using the bands, but it comes at a much lower cost.

Treadmill/Elliptical/Rowing Machine
If you stay up past 11pm on any week night, you will be bombarded with infomercials on the latest and greatest piece of the at-home gym. Remember the Nautilus Skier, the Bow-Flex? Most likely, you will use the equipment as a closet rather than for its intended purpose.

VERSUS: Borrow
Before you dump hundreds or even thousands into a piece of equipment that may end up a dust-collector, borrow one (or something similar) from a friend or family-member. It’s probably just collecting dust and clothes at their house. Or, use a free trial membership at the gym to test-drive the different types of machines. If you find one that you absolutely love, then that’s the one you should purchase. Don’t buy something just because it’s being marketed as the last piece of equipment you’ll ever buy. Buy a quality, useful machine, not the hype.

DVD Programs
Tony Horton has made a fortune on his 10-Minute & 90-Minute workout programs. They really do work, but at what cost?

VERSUS: Borrow some more
Check the library’s collection of fitness videos. Chances are they’ll have one of these or a similar program. Or, find a sucker – I mean, friend – that purchased the videos and learn the basic concepts of the program. Sometimes, special equipment is used in the routines but improvise with what you have. Once you know the gist of the video routines, write them down. You don’t have to listen to the narrator tell the same bad jokes every day; create an up-tempo play list on your MP3 player, pull out your notes & get sweating.

This is an ongoing topic for me, and I will be adding more to this list. There are as many options as there are stars when it comes to the Battle of the Bulge. Finding a safe & medically-sound track for YOU to be your best is the goal.

Homepage photo credit: Alan Cleaver