How Do I Know if I’m Big Boned?

I’m someone who’s been a little on the pudgy side my entire life. That being said, there was more than one family gathering where one of my older relatives (usually) would point out the little extra pudge I had around my waist to my mom.

Of course, she’d reply something along the lines of, “She’s not overweight, she’s just big boned.” But what does being big boned really mean? And does being big boned really have anything to do with being a little heavier than the average person?

Most importantly, how do I know if I’m big boned?

To find out if you are big boned, compare the circumference of your wrist to your height. For example, a man taller than 5’5″ is considered big boned if their wrist circumference is greater than 7.5 inches, while a woman taller than 5-5″ is considered big boned with a wrist circumference greater than 6.5 inches. 

While there are big boned people out there, most people have average skeletal builds, regardless of their weight. Below, I’ll talk a little more about what it means to big boned, how to find out if you are big boned, and how it relates to your total weight.

How Do I Know if I’m Big Boned?

One of the challenges that scientists have had when it comes to determining whether people really are “big boned” is that it’s not really possible to remove a person’s skin, fat cells, and muscles and weigh just their skeletal frame. Plus, there aren’t many areas of the body where the bone is close enough to the skin that you can measure it from the outside.

The best way to find out if you are big boned is to measure the circumference of your wrist. Wrists are fairly close to the skin and don’t usually have much muscle built around them, so they’re bones to measure. Plus, since a person’s skeleton is generally proportional, measuring one bone gives you a good idea of the size of the rest of your skeletal frame.

How to Find Out if You’re Big Boned

All you really need to find out if you’re big boned is a tape measure and your wrist. Take the tape measure and wrap it around your wrist to find out how big it is all the way around. You’ll want the measurement in inches (or centimeters works if you don’t mind converting).

According to the National Institute of Health, here are the qualifications for being big boned and how wrist circumference relates to a person’s total height.

Height  Wrist Circumference (Small Boned) Wrist Circumference (Average) Wrist Circumference (Large Boned)
Less than 5’2” (for women) Less than 5.5 inches 5.5-5.75 inches Greater than 5.75 inches
5’2”-5’5” (for women) Less than 6 inches 6-6.25 inches Greater than 6.25 inches
Greater than 5’5” (for women) Less than 6.25 inches 6.25-6.5 inches Greater than 6.5 inches
Greater than 5’5” (for men) 5.5-6.5 inches 6.5-7.5 inches Greater than 7.5 inches

They only included measurements for men who are over 5’5″. However, most men who are big boned are over this height, since it’s really not common to have big bones on a shorter frame. That’s why a lot of stores designed for the taller guy also offer big and tall sizes.

What Does Big Boned Mean?

Big boned is a term used to describe a person who has a larger skeletal frame than average. This means that they have a wider circumference, rather being longer. Like being big boned doesn’t have a lot to do with your physical weight, it also doesn’t have a lot to do with your actual height.

Someone who is taller will have longer bones, of course. This may even result in a slight difference in weight, which is one of the reasons that your BMI is calculated by comparing your total weight and your total height.

That being said, having taller, longer bones does not mean that you are big boned either. Rather, a person that has a physically larger frame and wider bones is the type of person that’s being referred to as being “big boned”.

Does Big Boned Mean Fat?

As someone whose had older relatives that made remarks about my weight more than once, “big boned” really comes off as an excuse for someone to be overweight. While I understand my mom wanting to preserve my feelings and my confidence when I was younger, I’m more about embracing my body now and honestly, “big boned” really did just sound like “fat” to me.

When used in language, some people do say “big boned” as a more polite way of saying fat. That being said, I don’t think commenting on someone’s weight, especially a child’s, is something that is polite at all.

When it comes to the medical side of things, big boned does not mean fat. People who are bigger boned actually have bones that are a little larger. Additionally, while there are some people who are both big boned and fat, it’s also possible to be big boned and have an average BMI or even be overweight.

Does Bone Size or Density Affect Your Total Weight?

No, in most cases, the size and density of your bones doesn’t affect your total weight that much. The average weight of an adult male’s skeleton is only around 24-30 pounds, while a woman’s average skeleton weighs about 18-23 pounds. It’s fairly normal for women to have a slightly smaller frame than men, though that only accounts for a slight difference in total skeleton weight.

Even when someone does have larger bones, there’s a good chance it won’t affect your overall weight that much. The size of your bones has nothing to do with the amount of muscle and fat that you have on your body. Plus, while the physical size of your skeletal frame will never really change, you can do things to increase muscle mass, decrease fat, or even be more flexible.

Can a Person Really Be Big Boned?

Yes, it is possible for a person to be big boned. That being said, statistics from Huffington Post state that only around 15% of the population actually are big boned. So while it is possible, for most people, it just isn’t likely. It’s also possible to have smaller bones than average!

That being said, even if you are big boned, it isn’t something that you can really change. The size of your bones will never be any different and while you may lose bone mass as you age, your best bet is to focus on increasing muscle mass or decreasing fat if you aren’t happy with your body. And if you are happy with your body and how it is, then don’t change a thing!

Is There a Link Between Being Big Boned and Being Overweight?

While it’s believed that a person who is overweight can actually have bigger bones, having bigger bones doesn’t necessarily mean that person is or is going to be overweight. There is a correlation, but that correlation is one-sided. Your bone size and density don’t really have a lot to do with your overall weight.

That being said, research from North Carolina State University has shown that it is possible to tell if a person is overweight by looking at their skeleton. The study looked specifically at the femur bones of white males for consistency and found that people who are overweight tend to have femur bones that are slightly wider around the shaft of the bone.

While more research needs to be done to determine the significance of this and if it is true of other genders and races, this has furthered our understanding of the effects that being overweight can have on the body. Understanding the weight of the human skeletal frame and size has also helped debunk the myth that people who are overweight might have big bones to blame.

What Does it Mean if I’m Big Boned?

Learning that you are big boned doesn’t really change anything. There’s nothing wrong with having a larger-than-average bone structure, though it doesn’t have a significant effect on your weight. In fact, the opposite is actually true.

Researchers believe overweight individuals may have a wider-than-average femur for two reasons. First, it’s possible that a person’s femur grows a little as they gain weight to better support their body. Just like fat people are stronger in some cases from carrying around the weight, bones may strengthen by getting just a little bit wider as time goes on, too.

The second reason has to do with evolution and how a person’s body can change over time. People who are larger may have a different gait or walk differently than slimmer people, so their femur may grow differently as it adapts to their specific walking pattern.

Finding out you’re big boned (or not big boned) probably isn’t going to change the way you live your life. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t have a significant impact on your weight or health.

Final Word

For the people wondering, “How do I know if I’m big boned?”, hopefully this article has answered some of your important questions.

While being big boned might add to your total weight or make your physical structure a little bigger, in most cases, being big boned doesn’t have a whole lot to do with how much you weigh. If anything, there’s an inverse relationship because its actually being overweight that can change a person’s bone structure.

Any thoughts, questions, or comments? Feel free to leave them below!

Camila R.

Camila is a body positive blogger and fat activist that's focused on helping people of all sizes live life big! That means accepting yourself at any size and just enjoying life! She lives in New Mexico with her husband and two chihauhuas.

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