Just what exactly makes a woman skinny?

Some say small bones, particularly the thin woman herself, while others would argue it has everything to do with calories in vs. calories out.

Calories in vs. Calories Out

Many personal trainers insist that this equation is just too simplistic. I’m a former personal trainer for a large health club.

I’d tell clients that the common denominator, know matter what a person’s genetics, diet, bone structure or exercise habits are, is this:

This very simplistic equation is determined by all of those other factors that some other fitness experts insist are more important:

• Diet: what a woman eats, when and how much

• Genetics: Does fast metabolism run in the family?

• Amount of muscle mass: More muscle means a faster resting metabolism

• Exercise: Certain exercises burn more fat than others

• Hormonal environment: The hormonal picture in a woman can influence metabolism.

• Medical conditions: Some medical conditions decrease or increase metabolism.

But when all of those bullet points are stripped away, it still all comes down to calories in vs. calories out.

Small Bones and Thin Women

A woman is never thin simply because she has small bones. If you believe otherwise, ask yourself what would happen if something slowed down her metabolism, especially if she coincided that by increasing her caloric intake. And what if she stopped exercising?

Shutterstock/Just dance

A woman with small bones may very well be taking in more calories than she’s burning off. The equation may be this way for several reasons including:

• Depression—leading to quitting exercise and becoming sedentary

• Dating a man who’s always taking her out to restaurants with rich high calorie food

• Menopause (increased appetite and/or hormonal changes)

• Lack of strength training: causes muscle loss which slows metabolism

• Stress: drives her to eat way more than she should.

This woman with small bones will gain fat and become bigger as a result.

Small bones do not make a woman thin.

A small boned woman may have the biggest appetite in the West and not exercise, along with having an average metabolism.

What do you think she’ll look like, with those three factors in place? She will be fat or overweight.

If she diets and exercises and loses the 50 extra pounds of fat and can fit into a size 6, does this mean her bones shrunk? 

Now let’s take a large boned woman who practices portion control, has a fast metabolism and works out. She’s going to be lean.

Her larger bone structure has NO influence on her resting metabolism.

What influences her resting metabolism is the same as what influences the resting metabolic rate of a small boned woman:

• Genetics

• Exercise

• Diet (processed food diet triggers hunger; healthy diet suppresses hunger)

• Hormonal environment inside her body

• Presence of medical condition

A large bone structure does not cause a woman to be big or husky. Have you not seen “before” images of husky women who then lost fat and gained lean muscle tissue (via diet and exercise), and in their “after” picture they are enviably lean and toned?

Bone size is not relevant.

Thin women who tell you they’re skinny due to small bones are perhaps trying to divert your attention away from suspecting an eating disorder.

This is akin to overweight women telling you they are “big boned” so that you don’t think they have out-of-control eating habits or are lazy.

When I was a fitness trainer I had overweight female clients whom I could tell had small bones, and thinner female clients who had large bones.

A large boned skinny woman has broad shoulders and relatively large hands. A small boned fat woman has narrow shoulders and more petite looking hands.

There are additional ways to gauge whether a woman has small or bigger bones, but the amount of body fat is not one of them! Low muscle mass + low body fat = skinny.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Shutterstock/Vikacita