If one of your New Year's resolutions is to lose weight, you're not alone: Each January, thousands of Canadians pledge to shed some pounds and improve their health.

However, many people have a hard time turning this resolution into reality. Often it's because they put themselves on a punishing regimen that's ultimately unsustainable. A better approach is to make physical activity and healthy eating a regular, celebrated part of daily life. 

Below are some realistic, down-to-earth tips that can help you lose weight this year, no crash diets necessary:

Set achievable goals 
Losing 20 pounds in one month is not a realistic goal, nor is it a safe one. But many people fall into the trap of "false hope syndrome," thinking that losing weight will be easier than it actually is and require less effort than it does. Instead, it's important to set attainable weight loss goals for yourself that make sense for your health and current lifestyle. 

workoutYou're more likely to work out if it's easy to get to the gym.

Remember, a resolution is not the same as a goal — a goal is more detailed and outlines what exactly you want to accomplish. Make it specific, for example, losing 5 pounds by the end of February. Don't feel like you're not trying hard enough if you set small goals — the little victories will give you the motivation you need to keep going and set your sights even higher. 

Make exercise easy 
You're far more likely to go to the gym if it's easy to get to. Aim to make it as simple as possible to work out, whether that means using the gym in your office building or joining one down the street. You could also consider creating a gym in your home — all you need are some mats, weights and other basic equipment. Be honest with yourself about whether you can exercise at home, however. While some people find they can be disciplined about it, others discover workouts are easier to skip in the comfort of their own home.  

Look for opportunities in your day to be more active
While hitting the gym is important, the key to sustainable weight loss is embracing physical activity as part of your lifestyle. Look for ways to add more exercise to your daily activities. Here are some ideas:

  • Walk or bike to work instead of driving or taking public transit. You could also park farther from work than usual and walk the rest of the way. 
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. 
  • Join your kids or grandkids in a game of kickball or tag. 
  • Go for a walk around the block with your co-worker at lunch or on your break. 

There are many sneaky ways to add exercise to your day. Always be on the lookout for them!

"There are many sneaky ways to add exercise to your day."

Keep a food journal
You can't lose weight by working out alone — healthy eating is also necessary. Unfortunately, many of us don't have a firm grasp on the reality of our eating habits. We may eat a relatively balanced breakfast, lunch and dinner, but forget that we also tend to enjoy late-night snacks or devour sweets when we're stressed. Keeping a food journal can help you get a clearer picture of your eating habits. Noting what you eat, when and what your feelings were before can enable you to make smart adjustments and eliminate triggers for unhealthy eating. For example, you may always turn to fast food when you're especially busy at work, and with this knowledge, you can prepare healthy meals and snacks ahead of time to bring to the office. 

Savour mealtime 
Food is fuel, but it's also nourishment, reinvigorating our minds and bodies. Changing how you approach mealtimes can make a big difference in your ability to lose weight. 

First, eat meals only when you're sitting down at a table, and not in front of the TV or at your desk. Focusing on anything other than your food and the people you're eating with can lead to mindless eating when you're no longer hungry. Approach mealtimes, or eating snacks, like a pleasurable ritual to savour! When you're focused on the flavours and colours of the meal, you're more likely to feel satiated after. 

Second, opt for smaller portions. You may think you'll only feel satisfied after eating a huge bowl of pasta, but you'd be surprised at how a smaller portion size can be all you need. Buying smaller plates and bowls can help you keep your servings in check. 

Be kind to yourself 
Losing weight is a journey, and all journeys have their ups and downs. Remember that you're only human and are bound to make mistakes. What prevents you from reaching your goals is not the fact that you mess up, but that you berate yourself after and become discouraged. Be kind to yourself when pursuing your weight-loss goals, and know that you can get back on track at any time. 

The real-world tips above don't require expensive personal trainers or crazy diets — they only require a positive attitude and a willingness to embrace active living as part of your daily lifestyle. Good luck!