Big boned: a myth or a real condition?

“Honey, you’re just big boned”

It’s one of the more common statements you’re likely to hear if you’re a somewhat tall, maybe slightly heavy-set male or female:

No, you’re absolutely not fat. You’re just big boned!

According to information from the US National Library of Medicine (by the National Institutes for Health),  the frame size of the human body does differ between people. As a result, there is such a thing as being “large”, “medium”, or “small” boned. If you’re curious, you can easily figure out your own frame size category. Just grab a measuring tape, and measure your own height, then your wrist circumference.

The frame size is dependent on your height, and the table at the other end of the above link (repeated below), will help you determine whether your essence is housed in a small, medium, or large body-frame.

 Body-frame size

Height: Women Small Medium Large
< 5′ 2″  Wrist: < 5.5″  Wrist: 5.5″ to 5.75″  Wrist: > 5.75″
5′ 2″ to 5′ 5″  Wrist: < 6″  Wrist: 6″ – 6.25″  Wrist: > 6.25″
> 5′ 5″  Wrist: < 6.25″  Wrist: 6.25″ – 6.5″  Wrist: > 6.5″
Height: Men
> 5′ 5″ Wrist: 5.5″ – 6.5″  Wrist: 6.5″ – 7.5″  Wrist: > 7.5

A bit o’ bad news

With one exception, the size of your bones do not appear to have much to do with what the scale shows. The exception?

Your femur (thigh bone).

Being big boned - fact vs fiction
The human femur – From Wikipedia

The scientific study “The Effect of Weight on the Femur: A Cross-Sectional Analysis” (by Gina M. Agostini, et all), published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences in March of 2011, found a correlation between obesity and the shape of the human femur.

The study summary in plain english:

If you’re a caucasian male, the weight and density of your thigh bone will, after you’re dead, with a near 80% degree of certainty, indicate whether you were obese or not while alive.

But that’s the only bone in the body they have found to have anything to do with what your BMI, and thus the weight on the scale, is.

So, unfortunately, there’s no relationship between being “big boned” – i.e. your wrist measurement relative to your height – and “being big”.

About you

Have you ever been told you’re “big boned”?

Has it affected you in any way?

Would you be surprised to learn that thinking of yourself as “big boned” could be why you find yourself to struggling with losing weight?

4 Replies to “Big boned: a myth or a real condition?”

  1. i would like to see a more realistic weight scale for big boned people, male/female.
    I’m female almost 5’8″ I am big boned, 7″ wrist… what should my weight be between?
    according to most of the charts out there I should be between 125 to 163 lbs., or something insane like that… when I’m 150 I look like a walking skeleton, I would look like death at 125, when I was 18 and graduation high school in 1986 I was super fit and skinny for my big bones and was 128 lbs. I’m about 200 now and I know I have to lose some weight but what should my goal be? I want to shoot for something realistic… I’m also 50 years old. What should I weigh to have a healthy weight for my bone structure and height?

    1. There are people your height who weigh 150 lbs and are anything but healthy (skinny fat is a real thing). And there are people your height who weigh 180-190+ and are the model of health. We not all that preoccupied with what the scale indicates since it can be a pretty poor indicator of your health. And how healthy you are is a much better metric to use, we think.

      As an example of how poor of an indicator the scale can be: In our old fitness studio, I could “lose” about 7lbs of weight in 15 seconds by moving the scale to a different part of the studio (the surface the scale sat on made that big of a difference!).

      We prefer to focus on how you feel, plus body composition measurements (body fat percentage measurements over time while using the same measuring device, as well as circumference measurements). We also don’t mind looking at a number of different blood indicators when available (Lipids, vitamin & mineral content, glucose, liver function, thyroid function, etc).

      Your biological data – blood tests, body fat percentage as measured over time with the same apparatus, circumference measurements – plus how you feel and how your clothes fit are a much better indicator of if you’re on the right track, or not.

      Don’t even get me started on BMI… (NFL quarterbacks average a BMI of 27.78, so they’re technically overweight… Nobody will ever be able to convince me Tom Brady is overweight right now!)

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