Many of us have done it: Started the year with the resolution to lose weight, sure we’d stick to high-pressure goal we’d dreamed up in a fit of self-hatred. To drop 20lbs, go to the gym every day, count calories or never look at a piece of bread ever again. The fact of the matter is, New Year’s resolutions about weight loss can be dangerous and damaging, especially if you let them warp your self-image and negatively impact your self-esteem.

I’ve been that person—the first one at the gym on January 1, so sore by day three that they take the rest of the month off. I’ve also been the person to go and stick to it, grinding day in and day out. Both versions of myself are valid. In transparency, I’ve never been the person to commit to a hardcore diet, but I’ve definitely been the person to try to eat less and end up binging, only to totally hate myself for it. In at least one of these examples (or potentially all of them) I’m sure you see yourself. That’s OK. This is a reminder that you don’t have to start your 2021 apologizing for or trying to “fix” your appearance.

For some reason, weight loss, gym dedication and getting in shape are some of the most common New Year’s Resolutions of all time. And for people who, for one reason or another, need to do all of the above, that’s perfectly okay. Setting goals and sticking to them is a good thing. A great thing. I’m not here to shame anyone for trying to become healthier. My concern is for anyone who allows an unhealthy self-hated to bloom from the desire to look a certain way.

My concern is for anyone who allows an unhealthy self-hated to bloom from the desire to look a certain way.

I’m sure I don’t have to give you the whole ~we live in a world of Face-Tuned Instagram models and Photoshopped magazine ads~ spiel, but in case I do, I’ll keep it brief: The perfect bodies you see online and in ads are often not real. You shouldn’t compare yourself to them. Healthy looks different on everyone.

Before you think I’m out here shaming anyone with the goal of hitting the gym, let me clarify yet again. Working towards a healthier lifestyle is an admirable goal! However, in this negative world, it is all too common that we use the season of New Year’s Resolutions to body-shame ourselves, picking our appearance apart in the mirror until we’ve resolved to change every little thing we hate. Does this behavior ultimately lend itself to a healthy lifestyle? No. Very often, it leaves us so distressed that we lose all motivation to do anything. We feel doomed. Defeated. Embarrassed. Trapped.

Out of all those words, “trapped” hurts me the most. My body is my home, the only home I’ll have forever. I hate the idea of someone feeling trapped inside theirs. My body is the reason I am able to get up and live my life every single day—how can I hate it (and hate myself!) for not looking exactly the way I want?

My body is my home, the only home I’ll have forever.

As you set your New Year’s resolutions, ring in 2021 and maybe even stock up on some new gym gear or healthy snacks, I urge you to be intentional with your goals. Don’t use your resolutions as opportunities to body-shame yourself. Instead, resolve to appreciate and love your body—in fact, this is a far better reason to vow to make healthy choices. Aim for health because your body deserves a long and beautiful life, not because you need to drop 10lbs in case low-rise jeans come back in style (and believe me, I’m doing all that I can to ensure they don’t). In 2021, I challenge you to a different kind of New Year’s Resolution: Resolve to be kind to yourself. You deserve it.

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