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Why are some ladies larger in build?

The mass-media and certain commercial interests have spent decades brain-washing us on this topic. It is therefore an uphill battle to bring some common sense into answering this question. The answer (or answers) are far more varied and complex than popular opinion suggests. The first thing to understand is that every body is different.

I have listed below most of the possible contributory causes of being large in build. Most plus size ladies are affected by more than one of the factors listed:

Large Frame

Often dismissed as an excuse, a large skeleton is one of the more obvious factors in a person's build. Just as some are tall or short, long in the body, short arms, etc., some have a large frame overall. As a portrait artist, I can report that it is easy to spot if a cuddly lady has a large frame, even though it is largely hidden under soft padding. A large size skull the most obvious clue, as are larger hands and feet. More difficult to spot are broad shoulders, but the distance between the shoulder pivot points confirms a large frame. Large frames probably go with larger organs and more muscle, all of which adds to weight without any weight-related health issues.

Underlying Muscle

Muscle is more dense than fat and so can lead to one lady being heavier than another of the same size but with less underlying muscle. Hidden under a layer of fat, the level of muscle may not be obvious, but ladies who do have more muscle than other plus sized women, often have well defined curves and hold their feminine proportions well. They are more agile, because their strength can cope with their weight, and are probably fitter, as exercise is not so difficult. Their level of fat is lower than their overall size might imply, which suggests better health.

Genetically Predisposed

Some of us have always known that genetics play a part in how easy or difficult it can be to gain weight. The author is thin and has never been able to gain weight, either fat or muscle. This appears to be inherited, and having a sweet tooth, as I do, the energy seems to turn to heat. Many other people find that food energy turns readily to fat, more so than in the majority of people. Some medical scientists have finally started to acknowledge this as a fact.

While some folk scoff at this notion and claim that it is used as an excuse for failed weight-loss, I have known many ladies who have run intensive fitness regimes and keeping strict diets (I don't mean "weightloss diets"), far more strict than anything this slender author has done, and yet they often still fail to lose weight. Or else they lose a little weight and settle at a smaller plus size, but very fit. Indeed, some of these ladies can out-perform thinner people in exercises.


This, too, is so often dismissed as an excuse, or else people claim that it is a very rare cause. Some such medical issues are fairly common and some are quite obvious. I've come across both thin and large ladies who have suddenly gained huge amounts of weight within months, so that it is obvious to the most cynical that something major is wrong. A more common problem is water retention, although I think the causes of this can be very varied. This can affect thin ladies, who then become plump, but also cuddly ladies who become larger. Water is dense, so it adds a lot of weight for a given volume.

A variety of other issues, and also the side-effects of medications, can also have some effect, often just a small increase in a person's build.

Enforced Rest

Sometimes an injury or a major illness, can incapacitate a lady so that exercise ceases to be possible. If she also has a genetic predisposition to gaining weight easily, then this can lead to fairly rapid weight gain. Back injuries, knee troubles, etc. can lead to this problem which might become a vicious circle.

Comfort Eating

This is actually an indirect cause of gaining, or maintaining, high weight levels. Periods of over-eating are very often linked to one's state of mind. A lady who "comfort eats", will do so when she is depressed. Failure at weight-loss 'diets' might contribute to this. Harassment from relatives to lose weight (who may think they are helping) may also lead to this. That is why a harsh approach to getting someone to lose weight, can be counter-productive. Ladies in this situation often put their whole lives on hold, hoping to do other things after slimming down.

The solution to this viscious circle is to change your priorities. Unless your size is having a major negative impact on your life, then you can probably do all the things you want with or without weight loss. So put your mind to all the other things in your life. Feel more positive and optimistic, because success, happiness, and satifaction is more about one's state of mind than one's size. Ironically, loss of weight often follows this process after the lady has stopped trying so hard.

Yo-Yo Dieting

One's body is likely to 'view' weight loss as a crisis, and especially so if the rate of loss is great. The body will adjust to try and regain weight, thus making it an increasingly uphill struggle to reduce in size, and then all too easy to later gain it all back again. Many ladies end up a bit heavier, and years of this so-called yo-yo dieting, results in a long-term increase in weight.

All this changing in size probably does more damage than maintaining a large size, assuming that there are not any special weight-related health issues at stake for the individual. One's skin may be affected by so many changes in weight as it tries to accommodate the rises and falls in surface area.

One factor in this long-term weight gain may be loss of muscle mass during 'dieting'. With reduced muscle to use up energy, that leaves more energy to be stored as fat, which works against the aim of reducing fat levels.

The important things to consider if you are a lady trying to lose weight are:

- Are there any definite health and lifestyle reasons for trying to lose weight, or is it due to general health-scares and social pressure?

- Weight loss is usually best done very slowly.

- Don't rely upon what the scales say as a measure of your overall health. Your weight is only one of many factors that gives clues to your state of health and fitness. Take lots of measurements from your body as you progress. See how well you do in exercises - how much you are improving and how you compare to other slimmer ladies.

- Don't totally ban yourself from sweets and other occasional indulgences. There are occasions when each of us needs a boost of energy from sweets. Typically during illness when our bodies are fighting infection and that drains us. Or if we happen to be especially tired after a busy period in our lives. Dietary intake needs to be balanced, but also matched to the individual. Some bodies crave certain things. Most bodies benefit from sufficient water intake to help pass anything that our bodies deem unwanted (toxic stuff, etc.).

- Remember what I said above about muscle being more dense than fat. If your diet and exercise are building up muscle, then clearly weight is being added, offsetting lost weight through reduced fat. This needs to be kept in mind when checking your weight if you work out a lot.

- If weight loss efforts have largely been a failure, then consider what I mentioned above about how muscle helps to use up energy, rather than letting it be stored. If you lack strength, then it might be helpful to tone up muscles and see if that leads to an easier loss of fat levels?


As you can see, the health and fitness levels of larger ladies varies a great deal depending on how and why each lady became plus sized. The healthier ones are often those who have been equally large all their adult lives, have larger frames, and have plus sized parents.

When you next see a large lady, don't assume anything about what she is like and how she got to be the way she is. You might be surprised at the true facts!

More pages of interest for full figured ladies:

Clothing Index UK

Clothing Index USA

Confidence (Look and Feel Good)

Plus Size Fashion Progress 2002-13 (UK)

Fitness Tips for Extra Cuddly Ladies

Relationship Issues

Dating Links plus advice on writing online profiles, and tips on flirting/dating offline

FAQ for this website

About this website

Fashion Advice for Larger Ladies

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Website started 4th March 2001