weight loss

Is there a better name for the very rare people who lose weight and keep it off?



Here on the blog I’ve been calling them “unicorns” as in beautiful, rare, mythical creatures. And that’s caused some hurt feelings. I’m sorry. Here’s some background which may or may not help!

First, as a bisexual woman, I’m amused by the term “unicorn” to refer to “hot bi babes.

Colloquial; Synonym for hot bi babe or HBB, often derogatory, condescending, or ironic. A bisexual person, usually though not always female, who is willing to join an existing couple, often with the presumption that this person will date and become sexually involved with both members of that couple, and not demand anything or do anything which might cause problems or inconvenience to that couple.

So I start out with the thought that it’s a funny term and that it’s being funny doesn’t mean that such people don’t exist. They’re just rare.

Second, unicorns have two traits “mythical” and “rare.” People have thought I meant to be talking about them as mythical, saying people who lose weight and keep it off don’t exist. No. I meant to refer to them as “rare.” Within the mythology, unicorns are rare. Unicorns only exist in fantasy worlds but within the fantasy they’re also rare.

So, it’s true both that unicorns are mythical and that (within the mythology) they’re rare.

We’re getting into my home turf here, philosophy, and the issue that’s getting us into trouble is truth in fiction. Think about Santa Claus. It’s true that he lives at the North Pole and that he’s married to Mrs Claus. It’s also true that he doesn’t exist. Think about Sherlock Holmes, to use David Lewis’s example. It’s true that he lives on Baker Street. It’s also true that he’s a fictional character. So it’s in the sense of “true” that applies to Santa wearing a red suit, that it’s true that unicorns are rare.

We can all be bit touchy about narratives that deny our existence. As a fit and fat person, I know that feeling. Of course, there are people who lose a lot of weight and maintain that weight loss. Of course, there are. Calling those people “unicorns”  denies their existence, some readers think. I meant it in a light-hearted way but some people to whom the term applies took offense. I’m sorry.

So here’s my explanation, via a discussion of truth in fiction, and my apology.

Better terms for rare creatures that actually exist? Albino penguins, maybe?

8 thoughts on “Is there a better name for the very rare people who lose weight and keep it off?

  1. Personally I like the term unicorns and always thought you meant rare, not mythical. Obviously not mythical because not once have you denied their existence. If they weren’t rare then we wouldn’t need to drive home the point that successful longterm weight loss is highly unlikely. This is despite the fact that both you and I are moderate weight loss unicorns–a fact we do not publicize much at all (possibly never).

    I vote for unicorns over albino penguins. And I also vote for laying the weight loss topic, rare or not rare, to rest for awhile.

    1. Maybe. I think weight loss is still a thing that motivates most women to fitness and addressing it critically is super important. I like having our voices out there on this topic. For me, given my size especially, keeping silent isn’t an option.

  2. Thanks for the explanation- I love thinking about truth this way 🙂 And I probably would have taken the literal meaning about unicorns not existing first… so I am happy with both unicorns and albino penguins as descriptors of “rare” now. Thanks for this wonderful blog!

  3. What I think is missing from weight loss discourse is even the slightest attempt at nuance. Lots of people lose weight and maintain the loss. A 5-20% weight reduction can improve health and be maintained, but that kind of loss on most people doesn’t change their body size dramatically. So, the basic term “people who lose weight and keep it off” really means “people who achieve extreme, intentional weight loss and are currently maintaining that loss.” It’s a mouthful, sure, but it’s more accurate for these uni-penguins. I really don’t care about words in this case, but there’s something about diffusing the unicorn-ness because it does a smashing job of talking back to the “unicorns are beautiful and majestic and sparkly and everyone wants to be one” narrative bolstered by extreme, intentional weight loss success stories. I wonder if people would try so hard to be weight loss albino penguins.

  4. Personally, I think the proper term for most of them is “new moms,” because when diet programs report their statistical success rates, they are including a bunch of naturally-thin women who have been convinced, via advertising, that they need the help of a diet program to lose their “baby weight” (which was going to fall off anyway). It’s just a hypothesis, because I’ve never seen an analysis of diet program success rates that excludes women who are less than six months postpartum. But it would be interesting.

  5. LOL! I love this. I don’t mind at all being considered a “unicorn” ( I have had an extreme, natural weight loss of nearly 140 lbs in a little over a year) I like it better than an albino penguin haha

  6. I think it is silly to label people at all. Why not focus on what we have in common rather than always tearing apart our differences.

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