I’ve got to tell you, nothing crushed me more than having to write that essay about the young woman who passed away due to complications from unlicensed, unsafe gluteal injections. Nothing was more frustrating than having to write about the harmful effects of these unlicensed injections for a fourth victim.

And nothing saddens me more than knowing that, someday – hopefully not any time soon – I’ll have to write about them again.

I can understand the desire and want for a nice, round derriere, but at what cost should it come? Are we willing to understand our bodies and learn to work with – and build from – what we’ve got? Or are we willing to undertake serious risk for temporary satisfaction?

The logical problems of booty injections are plenty. Oftentimes injecting a foreign substance into your body – and, even if your makeshift physician can explain the physiological processes to you, you should be looking it up to double check it yourself, since anyone can make anything sound good to someone who doesn’t know any better – and sealing it up with something as nebulous and non-sterile as nail glue, the substance is actually absorbed into the blood stream and can interfere with internal organ function, depending on what it is.

It should alarm you that there is such little information about what these people are actually being injected with, that it’s hard to say what can happen once said unidentifiable substance is inside of you. Just realize that, the same way we express concern for not knowing what’s in our food, we’d need to express concern about not knowing what’s in our behinds.

Speaking of our food, as much as we love to say that a good prescription for cornbread and collard greens two times a month will deliver the nice, healthy booty we desire… can we be sure that it’ll stick around as we age? Will it look the same throughout the years, or will it start to sag? Will we gain, instead of a nice tush, a few inches somewhere else?

Damn it, is there anything that will give us the booty we want?

Yes, and they’re called “squats.”

Squats – the actual movement of bending at both the hip, knee and ankle – are essential to the development of any lower-body muscle. Shaping up the muscles that make up your booty and thighs can give you curves in the hip, thigh and booty region that you’ve never imagined!

Now, the harsh reality: squats are a long-term investment. The benefits of squats don’t happen overnight – in fact, depending on whether or not you’re doing them consistently and with correct form – and can take months to begin showing any actual improvement, but a solid, consistent squat routine can pay off in the form of not only a stronger back and more defined abs, but also a higher behind and greater range of motion.

Want some tips to building the booty you’ve dreamed of? Of course I’ve got you covered:

1) Are you a squatting beginner? If so, practice squatting by standing and sitting in a seat repeatedly. This is known as an “assisted squat,” and it helps newbies ensure that they have the proper range of motion and balance to squat without injuring themselves. If you can do that in 3 groups of 20 and feel no “tingle” or “burn” in the end, try your assisted squat with a lower surface, like a stool, a stack of phone books, or even a small storage container.

2) Don’t feel like you need to go to the gym to get in a good squat. Sure, barbells might be great, but those aren’t your only option. Grab a bookbag and fill it with books, water bottles, whatever! Just know that, to make it challenging, adding weights is key. (Here’s a tip – strap that bookbag to the front of your chest, instead of the back, and check out one of my favorite exercises – the good morning!)

3) You don’t have to merely do one kind of squat – there is a variety, and you should feel encouraged to try them all, since they all help you develop your ranges of motion. Side lunges, plié (or sumo) squats, 3-point squats, Bulgarian split squats… seriously, the options are endless. And, the easier they become, the harder you make them!

4) Your food intake must be consistently healthy, with lots of produce and quality sources of protein. Muscle building is a challenging process, and your body needs to be armed with as much protein and as many nutrients as possible to help it rebuild.

Booty building doesn’t have to be that difficult. With patience and consistency, you’ll definitely get the inches you desire, as well as an improved quality of life from the muscle you’re building. Like I always say, take care of your body and… it will thank you for it!

Erika Nicole Kendall is the writer behind the award winning blog A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, where she blogs her journey from 330lb couch potato to certified personal trainer and nutritionist. Ask her your fitness-related questions on Facebook and Twitter.