But it appears there’s little truth to the idea that a person can be overweight due to “big bones.” To investigate the big-boned theory, I made an appointment at the Eastern Michigan University Office of Nutrition Services.
Using a DEXA scan (Dual Energy Xray Absorptiometry) I would learn exactly how much of my total bodyweight was fat, lean mass and bone.
It turns out my entire skeleton — every bone in my body — weighs just 7.92 pounds. But I’m in reasonably good shape. Or maybe my bones just naturally weigh less and maybe a heavier person would have a far heavier skeleton?
I decided to investigate.
Thanks to the magic of Google Image Search, I could track down other people’s DEXA scans and compare their results to mine. Here’s a DEXA scan from a far heavier man.
At the time of his first scan, he tipped the scales at 260lbs. According to his scans, he was carrying 101 pounds of fat on his frame compared to my 14 pounds of fat.
And yet, his skeleton only weighs 9.26 pounds. In other words, his skeleton was about one pound heavier than mine. The real reason he weighed more than I did was not his “big bones” but how much body fat he was carrying.
But what about women?
Perhaps an overweight woman might suffer from a heavier skeleton?
Probably not. I found this woman’s DEXA scan online. As you can see, her skeleton weight is 3,213 grams, which is roughly 7.08 pounds.
This is not to say that we all have the same-sized skeleton. A taller person would clearly have a taller skeleton. Still others definitely seem to have a larger “frame” as evidenced by a larger circumference of the wrist and ankles. [NOTE: The wrist and ankle joints typically do not have much fat or muscle, it’s mostly skin and bone. So a person with a larger wrist would most likely have a larger bone circumference.]
And yet, that doesn’t seem to mean more weight on the scale. At least not more much. After reviewing over 50 DEXA scans from various individuals online, the lightest skeleton I could find was 5.25 pounds. The heaviest was 9.26 pounds. That’s only a five pound gap. So if you think “big bones” are the reason are the reason for the numbers on the scale, well now you know the truth.
Final Word: If your scale weight indicates that you’re overweight, it’s most likely because you’re carrying too much body fat. Not because you’ve got “big bones.”
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Matt Marshall is a fitness writer and researcher committed to uncovering the truth about health and fitness. He shatters myths and reveals the facts about getting fit at