Elliot Kesse has had body image issues for as long as they could remember. Kesse was assigned female at birth and uses they/them pronouns.
"I know at least by high school I was going with my mom and my aunts to diet programs," they say. "All of the women in my life I can remember were perpetually on diets." Kesse says the internet helped they realize how toxic diet culture can be.
Now as a yoga instructor, Kesse says they realized how hard it was for others to think of their body image outside of diet culture.
Covington yoga instructors want to reshape how the LGBT community thinks and feels about their body image. In a workshop this Sunday at Rooted Yoga, organizers are inviting members of the community to reclaim what body positivity feels and looks like.
"One of the problems with body positivity is the whole positivity part," Kesse says. "It's this idea that you have to love your body, you have to think you're beautiful and you have to think everything is great and wonderful. I really don’t like that. The forced and false positivity is not any more helpful than negativity." Kesse says they have called a truce with the way their body looks.
"When we talk about how society affects who we are psychologically, from our gender to our sexuality, it becomes one of those things society puts a lot of pressure on us," says LaTonya Whipple, a clinical psychologist who works with transgender people. "Society expects us to be one way and what society considers to be normal. If we don't conform to that it's going to impact who we are and how we live our lives, especially when you talk about the LGBTQ+ community."
The conversation will be centered on unlearning societal messages of what bodies should look like and the unique impact that has if you're in the LGBT community.
Whipple says society sends us signals of who we are supposed to be, even if that's not how we identify ourselves. "To go against that grain affects everything about who we are," she says. "It affects our insecurities, our self-confidence, sometimes it can affect the way we look at each other."
Kesse says yoga meditation and breath work changed their relationship with their body and how they thought about its function. "My feelings before yoga were that my body was wrong and bad," Kesse says. "I have always been heavy. I like to say, 'Even when I was thin, I was fat.' " Now Kesse says sitting with their feelings and naming why they exist has been helpful.
They say event attendees will learn meditation and breathing techniques used in yoga. Kesse hopes people who attend feel more comfortable and at ease with themselves.
"We think of a journey or struggle or healing as linear," they say. "We are constantly moving forward or up and, it's so not that. We are all around; we are back and forth."