Updated on July 7th, 2023 at 05:23 pm

I’m not fat, I’m big-boned – this is a common excuse larger people use to explain their weight. While it could be true, I found myself wondering, how do I know if I’m big-boned?

You can approximate the size of your frame by wrapping your hand around the smallest part of your wrist. If your index finger and thumb overlap, you probably have a small frame. If the two fingers meet, you be small-boned, and if they don’t touch, you may have a large frame.

But this is merely an approximation. Read on to learn how to get a more conclusive answer and what a large frame size means for your weight going forward.

How Do You Know if You Are Small or Big-boned?

The size of your body frame is determined by your wrist circumference relative to your height. Aside from wrist measurement by fingers, below are some methods to measure and determine if you are small, medium or large-boned.

Elbow Measurement

Extend your arm and bend your elbow at 90 degrees.

Next, measure the width of the widest part of the joint bone. You can use your thumb and middle finger to get an estimate and recheck it with measuring tape. Below are the elbow measurements relative to height for men and women with medium frame size.

If your measurement in the chart falls below the elbow measurement for your specific height, you are small-boned. But if the measurement is higher, then you are big-boned.

image of elbow measurement - Extra Large Living

Wrist Measurement

Using a measuring tape, measure the circumference of your wrist – the spot right above the protruding bone – and use the following chart for an accurate determination.

image of wrist measurement - Extra Large Living

The wrist measurement is accurate because very little body fat accumulates here. So even if your weight fluctuates, your wrist will pack minimal fat and the circumference will change slightly.

What Makes Someone Big-boned?

According to a US Department of Health and Human Services report, the size of a person’s body frame is determined by a complex combination of lifestyle, nutritional factors, and genetics.

According to the study, weight, height, milk intake and prior exercise, caffeine intake, and smoking are the prevalent and critical predictors of bone size and bone density in fit individuals. Moreover, the interaction between exercise history and milk consumption is a significant predictor of the size of the tibia bone.

Can a Person Really Be Big-boned?

Being big-boned is a thing, but it’s not a medical term. Unfortunately, both men and women use it incorrectly and as an excuse for being overweight. The few people with truly bigger bones have wrists that are a little too large for standard bracelets and watches. The large bones account for a little extra weight and not 30 pounds. Moreover, a large percentage of the extra bone weight is water.

In general, large bones cannot make a difference between having a healthy BMI and being overweight. Also, done confuse bone density, which is mineral concentration in bones, with bone size.

With that said, most people with large frames are a result of extra fat and muscle on their bones.

Can a Big-boned Person Become Thin?

Yes, they can. The weight loss journey involves creating a calorie deficit which results in the loss of body fat, muscle mass, and water weight. Your bones will not change regardless of the amount of weight you lose. So you shouldn’t expect your big frame to shrink to a smaller frame size.

However, reducing tissue, fat, and water percentage will affect your overall body appearance enough to be considered skinny, thin, or athletic.


The only time skeleton structure matters is on the face since some bone structures can give you a larger or rounder face making you look fat. And while bone density and circumference can increase with weight and strength training, the changes are minimal and not enough to create confusion between healthy BMI and being overweight.

A golden rule of thumb is if it jiggles and you can’t flex it, then it’s fat. This is good news because you can always lose fat and tissue with healthy lifestyle changes. For more information please check out ExtraLargeLiving.com.