Want Attention? Don't Play In The Middle

Recently I was filming/photographing a live fitness event in Santa Monica. There were about a hundred people there on a gloomy Saturday morning in June. They were pushing hard, working their asses off, and sweating.

There was one girl near the back. She was overweight. Significantly overweight. So I pointed the camera at her. I took some video. Then some photos. I thought it was good footage of someone working hard, but it made me slightly uncomfortable.

Why? I have the same reaction when I was pointing the camera at the girls in the front who were in great shape. Maybe I thought she thought I was judging her. I wasn’t. I was inspired by her. There weren’t many people like her out there.

I came back to her a little later and grabbed some more footage with my iPhone. I saw a video that would potentially be very polarizing.

I knew posting this video online would cause a reaction. I was fairly positive it would be a good reaction, but I knew there would be a crowd that would take the opposite approach.

Most content you see on social media is somewhere between the “clouds and the dirt”, to borrow a popular phrase from Gary Vaynerchuk.

But if you want to stand out. You have to find content that will cause people to have a visceral reaction and pick a side. Granted, it’s not that easy to do and most of the time you can’t script it.

So I talked to my client and we pondered about posting the video. Then we posted the video. It was 11 seconds of her working out. You can see it here. We captioned it, “She didn’t have to show up today, but she did.”

Could’ve easily went with a less polarizing caption like “They didn’t have to show up today, but they did” because there are other people in the video. But, that would be taking the middle road.

The actual reaction to the post? Exactly what we thought. Here are two comments, back to back.

Person 1: Someone can be 90 lbs stick thin and be out of shape looking a fool trying to get out there and get fit. Why focus on the 1 person that stands out? Span the entire group and shout out to everyone there working out. This is post may inspire but what it’s really doing is continue the focus on size and body image. It’s not cool.
PERSON 2: Come on now, it’s obvious that it probably takes more strength and courage for that woman to show up in hot weather on the beach and work out with a ton of skinny people around her and be instructed by Autumn Calabrese. The other people are definitelyrocking it as well and I think the point was to highlight the fact that it is hard enough to get motivated when you already look great and I’m sure it’s much harder when you’re battling weight loss. Even if she was pointing out that this larger woman showed up, what is so wrong with that?? She is obviously trying to lose weight and I don’t understand why people get so offended by what was meant to be an uplifting message. It’s fine to be satisfied with the way you look but let’s be honest, that woman is probably looking to lose some body fat, tone up and get healthy. I doubt she’s there for the fun of it and kudos to her for sticking it out!

Could those comments be any further apart! It’s amazing. And there are thousands more like them. The overall reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

This story also shines a light on how we need to stop being so sensitive about body image.

Being overweight and being unhealthy go hand in hand. So anyone who takes the side where they think she’s being “shamed” by this post are ignoring the part that matters — that she’s taking action and doing something about her situation. If more people did that, the obesity crisis would take care of itself.

When you put yourself out here, good things happen.