WELLNESS
11/03/2014 08:23 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Yes, You Can Be 'Big Boned' (But That's Not Why You're Overweight)

video-doctor via Getty Images

The question: I weigh more because I'm big boned... right?!

The answer: It's a classic excuse of sorts, to those of us worried about our weight. Maybe, just maybe, it's not fat nudging the number on the scale upwards, but bone.

But circulating images of alleged body scans leads to the question: Is there any truth to the idea of being "big boned?"

"There is such a thing as being big boned, but it's not a medical term," spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Claudette Lajam, M.D., tells The Huffington Post. "People have different sized frames ... they're responsible for you being a bigger person overall, but in general they're not responsible for you being overweight.”

While a larger frame may account for a couple of pounds, she says, it's definitely not getting you off the hook for an extra 30. "Most people's weight is carried in their soft tissue -- muscle, fatty tissue, their organs," says Lajam, "so blaming extra weight on your bones is not accurate." And she should know: While performing knee and hip replacements on overweight patients, she sees those bones firsthand. "One of my mentors would say: 'I have seen your bones, and they're not big..."

Only about 15 percent of people do have a larger than average frame, and about the same have a smaller than average skeleton. The majority of us, therefore, are just average. There is, however, a pretty easy way to find out, which compares the circumference of your wrist to your height.

Use a tape measure and the following chart, from the National Institutes of Health, to determine if you're small, medium or large-boned:

2014-10-29-ScreenShot20141029at11.58.59AM.png

Lajam cautions that bone size shouldn't be conflated with bone density, which is a measure of the concentration of minerals (including calcium) in the bone. Lowered bone density, which can show if a person has osteoporosis, wouldn't change the size of a person's bones, just the concentration of mineral in it, she says.

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