Is your expensive exercise equipment or gym membership card collecting dust? Americans spend billions annually on supplements, diets and books, but according to a recent New York Times article, research shows that getting in shape depends less on trendy diets and high-tech gyms and more on motivation and willingness to change.

The Times article offers these suggestions to help those who are high on motivation but low on cash. Plus it offers tips for others who don’t mind spending to kick-start their weight-loss goals.

$0 Do it yourself. Include more fresh, high-fiber, low-fat foods in your diet and get about 30 to 40 minutes of exercise a day. Talk to your primary physician and check out the National Institutes of Health’s Weight-control Information Network (WIN) for more dietary advice (

$ Seek guidance. Purchase a book for about $20 if you’re interested in following a plan that’s specific to your needs. Do you crave foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt? Pick up The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David Kessler, MD, a former chief of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

$$ Join a group. Membership in formal groups, such as Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers, may provide the education, support and healthy peer pressure you need to stay motivated. Weight Watchers charges an initial fee of $15 to $20, then $13 to $15 for each weekly meeting. The program teaches you how to use its points system and provides you with a weekly weigh-in. Jenny Craig is pricey. A yearly membership costs $399, with an additional $83 a week for meals.

$$$ Try a hospital program. A hospital-sponsored weight-loss regimen may be the answer if you are obese or have a health condition such as diabetes.

Read RH’s “Simple Strategies for Fighting Fat” for more practical and affordable weight-loss advice.