Wait, Actually There is Such a Thing as Big Boned


In the struggle to lose weight, there is the ever-present small voice in the back of  your head whose sole purpose it is to keep you overweight and unhealthy. You know this voice. It’s the one telling you to ignore me right now.

This voice has many tactics to prevent your success, probably the most successful of which is to latch on to a piece of false information that convinces you that any effort to watch your diet or exercise is a fruitless endeavor. One of the most popular refrains of said voice is to bring up the idea of being “big boned”. The premise is that the reason you are so heavy and can’t lose weight is that you carry a lot of weight in very heavy bones. This is, of course, a variable that you cannot control, so why bother with your lofty weight loss goals.

One of the goals of this blog is to vounter that voice to help propel you forward to success. A few weeks ago, I posted my opinion on the subject of the myth of being big boned (click here for a review). Now that you’ve read that, you can imagine how disturbed I was on a recent family visit to the National Museum of Natural History. I was shuttling my darling little children through some rather horrifying mummies, archeological CSI scenes, and the skeletal remains of various seafaring creatures when we turned the corner onto an exhibit discussing the human skeleton. There were skeletons of young and old, male and female, short and tall.  The final wall showed a picture of a man who weight 600 pounds next to a man who weighed 200 pounds. IMG_3587

As you can see from the headline, “Heftier Bodies, Heavier Bones” the moral of their story was clear and it wasn’t the gospel I had been preaching.  I was a bit unsettled and rushed to the wall to check out the fine print.

The bottom paragraph says as follows:

Bone grows denser and heavier to support body weight.  Up to a point, increases in bone density can indicate healthy bones and better nutrition.  Over a lifetime, excessive body weight may make bones stronger, but it also weakens the heart, leads to diabetes, and wears out joints faster.

Bones get stronger by getting denser.  More density means more weight.  This would seem to disprove my big boned beliefs. Before I get to the implications for my book and blog I’ll explain why weight more leads to stronger bones. It is well known that the thing that makes bones stronger more than anything else is moving against resistance. Pay attention ladies because this tidbit of information could save you from a broken hip later in life. When your bones are made to move against resistant (i.e. lift something heavy) they respond by getting denser and stronger. Therefore, the more you weigh the more weight you are lifting against resistance with every movement. Since overweight people are lifting more weight against resistance their bones are getting more signal to strengthen leading to stronger and heavier bones.

Now he's big boned!
Now he’s big boned!

Back to the exhibit. I kept on reading and got the bottom line, which in this case was literally the bottom line of the paragraph. It said that the bones of the 600 pound man weighed a whopping two pounds more than the bones of the 200 pound man. You heard me. Two pounds. So if you are 5o pounds overweight, you can go a bit easy and consider yourself only 49 3/4 pounds overweight.

Now you can tell that little voice to pipe down so you can go to the gym.

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