A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Big boned: Not a reason to be overweight

Illustration - woman behind an x-ray screen showing her skeleton - is there such a thing as being big boned?

Being big boned means having wider bones. You can figure out if you’re big boned by measuring your wrist.

“I weigh more because I’m big boned.”

Dr. Brenda Banaszynski, a Marshfield Clinic family medicine physician, has disappointing news if you’ve been saying this to explain your weight.

You can be big boned, but larger bone structure doesn’t account for much extra weight, she said

Big boned means wider bones

Some people have bigger bones, Banaszynski said. For example, their wrists and elbows appear larger and may not be able to wear standard-sized watches and bracelets.

Measure your wrist to find out if you’re really big boned, since “body frame size is determined by a person’s wrist circumference in relation to height,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

People with the following measurements are considered large boned:


  • Less than 5 feet 2 inches tall and wrist size larger than 5.75 inches
  • 5 feet 2 inches to 5 feet 5 inches tall and wrist size larger than 6.25 inches
  • More than 5 feet 5 inches tall and wrist size larger than 6.5 inches


  • More than 5 feet 5 inches tall and wrist size larger than 7.5 inches.

Big bones don’t mean (much) extra weight

“Larger bones might account for a few pounds of weight but not 30 or 40,” Banaszynski said. “It’s not going to be the difference between a healthy body mass index (BMI) and being overweight.”

Some people might confuse bone size with bone density, which refers to the concentration of minerals in your bones. Like large bones, dense bones may add only a few pounds to your frame.

Focus on exercise and portion control for weight loss

“If your BMI is in the overweight or obese category, you probably need to make changes to be healthier regardless of the width or density of your bones,” Banaszynski said. “Being overweight or obese increases your risk for diabetes and heart disease.”

So the standard advice applies, big boned or not. Do more cardiovascular exercise, eat a well-balanced diet and pay attention to portion size to shed extra pounds.

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