Low T and Me

I have been back and forth as to whether I would ever publish this one, as admitting to low testosterone is not what any man would ever like to do or discuss in public, especially as a long-term condition unrelated to aging.  But as I mentioned in my very first post, facing the facts, which took a while to be honest, helps explain some things that have dogged me all my life, motivates me to keep going and drives some of my fitness decisions.  And so here it is before I chicken out (again).

What’s Low T?

So what are the symptoms of low testosterone?  This is a pretty good run down.  Not everyone suffers from all of them and thankfully I don’t suffer from too many of them, especially the bedroom related ones (or the hot flash one – not sure how I would cope with that):

  • low energy – definitely to some degree, but I can tie most of my worst periods to stressful times at work and/or periods of poor sleep driven by stress, kid or just plain poor decision making.
  • abdominal fat – check.  some places will also say low metabolism.
  • muscle atrophy – possibly
  • depression – i’m not depressed, but I am a confirmed cynic and pessimist.
  • gynecomastia – man-boobs (or moobs as I call them) – check and check
  • osteoporosis – reminds me to ask the doctor how my tests were, my WW scale says my density is too high tho which I find odd.
  • irritability – yea sometimes.
  • lack or loss of hair – thankfully I’m not balding, but I am prematurely graying (another symptom, first white hair at 20) and not especially hairy for a guy.
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes – something I was already worried about from being fat but still don’t have yet thankfully (and another reminder to schedule this year’s physical).

Diagnosis

In my life, becoming a new dad (life disruption plus massive sleep deprivation), getting this diagnosis, some trial and error treatment (more on this) and living through being laid off mid-2008 and then my former employer going bankrupt, put me through a mental ringer over the course of few years. My self-confidence and sense of self-worth took some pretty big hits for a while.  In many ways, I liken it to the stages of grieving. I like how that article describe it more as a roller coaster rather than a straight and steady path.

Treatment

It also didn’t help that it took a few years for the doctor to get me to the right levels and I was unaware of it.  My initial treatment was Testim gel, which you apply to the shoulders and sides each morning.  We started with a tube a day, then went to two, then down to 1 1/2 etc.  Throughout that time, I thought I was being brought up to normal levels, but in fact it turns out that during the entire period I was never getting enough juice out of the gel (some people have less absorbant skin) and/or my body was reacting by producing even less (which happens frequently when external sources of testosterone are introduced).

Which means I was at risk of the symptoms for longer than I realized.  Last year, we switched to sub-dermal implants (Testopel) every 3-4 months and for the first time I immediately felt the difference in energy and mood he had kept asking me about all that time.

That said, there are side effects (again thankfully not much for me so far), and some are a little counter intuitive such as low t causes moobs but so does treatment (?&@?), acne (definitely a little worse), fluid retention (possibly) and being sore at the implant site for about a week each time.

Owning My Disease, Owning My Obesity

Which brings us full circle to my fitness program.

Once I got past everything (which took a while), I was glad to know.  It explained my pattern of lifetime weight issues from a young age.  Low T didn’t cause my obesity – I definitely ate too much and was too inactive – but it certainly helped kick it up from severe to morbid.  It explained why even during periods where I ate very carefully to what were considered normal calorie ranges I could still gain weight without exercise.  It explained the moobs even when I was relatively fit.  Why I grow a scraggly looking beard and mustache.

It also made me realize that this is a lifetime thing.  I can never completely relax about the food or the exercise.  I need both even at target weight, thanks to lower metabolism.  It also led me to change to a more body building approach from the get-go even though it is a little counteractive to a pure weight loss program.  I want more muscle because it will help kick up the metabolism (even if it only turns out to be small% gain – I need every % I can get).  Weight training also helps fight osteoporosis.  Plus the endorphins from exercise help mood and energy. So does looking ripped.

And dangit, if I’m going to be on ‘roids, I’m gonna take advantage (though technically they are just pumping me up to regular levels but I’m not letting the head tell the body this).

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About J.

40 year old IT guy on a health and fitness kick.

Posted on August 31, 2011, in Health, Personal and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. Fantastic post! Bravo for telling us about this. It helps a lot of people and I will discuss with my hubby tonight. You are amazing. Hope it feels good too.

  2. So glad you are having a better result with the sub-dermal delivery system.

    Good for you for talking about this!

    Sometimes, all of the hard work, calorie-counting, exercise, and desire can’t thwart the body’s biochemistry, and it is important for everyone to recognize that many factors can be at play. It is also helpful to talk to a doctor – docs don’t always have a solution, but when they do, it can make a huge difference.

  3. Great post about low testosterone! The aging process and the baggage that can came along with it are not fun. Keep vigilant on your weight goals. In experience, weight loss can really increase your energy levels and might help with your ailment.

  4. Thanks all. I scheduled to publish this twice before and chickened out. I set it up this time to go before I usually get downstairs.

    @Keith – I wish it were that easy. Mine is not age related unfortunately (tho the cause is unknown, besides age they only know of a few limited causes currently and I’m none of them). One of my best friends has the same issue though his cause was eventually (after a 2 year odyssey of guess the ailment) determined (a small ‘growth’ on his pituitary gland which needs regular checking). So as I say, this is a lifetime thing I need to manage.

    • I think I internalized your post into the problems I have acquired in the aging process. I didn’t get the best deal from my gene pool.(mostly arthritis and lower disc problems) And I understand completely the medical “merry-go-round” for a diagnosis. I think I read somewhere “Do not let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.” from John Wooden (college basketball coach, I believe) For the last two years, it has been my motto. 🙂

      • no worries. sorry to hear about your challenges. But good you are doing something about it – weighing less is good for both of things I believe? Don’t know if strength training is good for arthritis or not or for disc..would imagine it would be good for back?

  5. Really impressive post. I’m sure it took a lot of “guts” to publish this post, but it was very informative. It’s like having your own “ah ha” moment when you put the weight issues together with the Low T and know that while it isn’t the only reason for your weight, it explains some of it.

    I’m really glad that you posted this. Thanks.

    • thanks LP. For me the clincher was – hey I lose weight this time, this problem doesn’t go away. I need to keep at it. Maintenance will be harder than average, but I think I’m more prepared than the last two times. I’m certainly at least informed this time.

      I’ve got a few ideas I’m kicking around for when I hit < 200. BMI wise, I need to get down to at least 173 for top end for my height (which I find interesting, as when I was 188, I thought I was only about 8 pounds away from the max I could lose, but we'll see)

  6. A wonderfully frank and honest post. I feel like I’m getting to know the man behind the (yellow smiley) mask.

    I’m feeling ya with the moobs. Sorry, I don’t mean I’m feeling your moobs 😉 I mean I’m feeling your pain re the moobs. I’ve got breasts big enough to make most women jealous. Check out my page under ‘Images’ called, ‘The (Semi) Naked Truth’ for details haha 😀

    • What smiley mask? I’m the brown llama….

      I’ve already seen ’em Paul. 😉 I let my guard down after the tameness of the ‘Man in the Mirror’ page. 🙂 As to jealousy, I got a comment like that in high school from one of the girls I was friends with. Wish I could remember how good/bad they were when I was at 188lbs (back in 1994).

      Right now they are at least still firm and perky tho… 🙂

  7. Journey 2 perfect body

    It’s hard to explain in words how I felt when I read this. As you might already know I have similar issue (hypothyroidism), it’s also hormone deficiency with quite a bunch of same symptoms (lack of energy, slow metabolism, lack of hair, irritability, etc.). It also took me quite a time to “own my disease” and explained me a lot. On the one hand, it’s hard to know that your body “betrays” you, that such a small thing as hormones can totally dominate your life… On the other hand, getting diagnosed answers lots of questions, helps to get better and, most importantly, enables to see a brighter future.
    I’m glad that your body responds to a new type of treatment quite well. And I wish you good luck! To be able to live your life to the fullest despite your condition.

    • yes, though I was broader, thought the universe was betraying me. The main thing I regret now is the lost time. If it really was a lifelong thing (a probability, but not a certainty since the root cause remains unknown), I think about the 2 decades I could have known about this and received treatment for. The not thinking everything was normal for all that time.

      Good luck with your continued treatment. I know you are going through a little bit of a rough patch as well on the home front.

  8. Great post. I didn’t know about the sub-dermal treatments; I thought they had the cream or injections. I took the injections for a little while after the leg surgery about 10 years ago. Something with the combination of the diabetes and the severe infection had reduce the Testo production. Luckily it took less than eight months to get back into the normal range, and the docs weened me off the injections. This was at a time that my health was so poor that I don’t even remember the symptoms of the low-T.

    Good luck with your treatment and kindest regards,
    David

    • might not have had the implants available 10 years ago. They used to have oral pills too, but those were pretty ineffective from what I understand. For healthcare coverage, I think they have to try the gel first. gel is covered by drug insurance, implants by medical. I’m glad cause I’m not sure I could have dealt with injections..another reason I’d like to avoid diabetes.

  9. Thanks for your honesty. That’s not an easy thing to come forward with, but it has obviously struck a chord with others that are dealing with similar issues. I know what you mean about not wanting to pull the trigger on a blog post. I feel that pretty much every time I post, but it is a small victory over the introvert inside me once it finally enters the public realm. I am amazed at the way my life has been enriched just by putting myself out there for other people to see. And, of course, the accountability keeps you moving forward towards your goals. Once you “go public,” you don’t have the option of a private failure. You have other people counting on you for inspiration and cheering for your success. That’s sometimes scary, but almost always effective. I applaud the way you’re taking this on, and I love the systematic approach and goal-setting. I’m also 39 (almost 40) and I am in better shape than when I was in high school! I haven’t had to compete with “low t” (as far as I know), but I know that every bit of fat that comes off, and every bit of muscle that goes on can only contribute to clearing up a myriad of health issues. I hope that your continuing track towards better health can knock out the “low t” as well. Keep up the great work. We’re all cheering you on!

    • thanks and good luck on your journey.

      Re going public – I was surprised HOW effective the publicity of the blog drives me during the week to keep pushing myself. It’s been an unexpected bonus.

  10. J, I’m dying to know how you feel about this post now.

    I often think that more often than not we are our own worse critics – no one can judge us more harshly than we judge ourselves. Having things like this in our lives can make us feel like we aren’t a whole person, or perhaps inferior to others. I’m hoping you already know this, but it doesn’t make you any less of a man

    Well done on your journey and thank you for your help recently.

    Pip

    • Interesting question pip. As always, glad the decision is no longer hanging over my head. It’s done, and worst case I can always trash the post as if it never existed 🙂

      One of the other drivers on the decision to do it now is that I have been privately blogging for the last two months w/o telling anyone. Only my wife and two people I am very good friends with know about the blog. I was actually thinking of widening the circle of people we know in real life, but of them only very few know about the low t.

      So I was thinking I should bury this post a little with a few more new ones before I do in the next week or so :O.. they can still find it, but this way they have to be interested enough to look. As opposed to publishing it after I tell them. Sneaky, a little bit..

      As to not feeling whole – yes – that was definitely part of the process. While I’ve always been been a bit different, and always on the heavy side, it wasn’t a mystery as to why. Nothing felt wrong all that time. So it was a surprise discovery when it came up as part of something else.

  11. I’d really encourage you not to delete it or bury it. It’s obviously something that means a lot to you and while it has potential long term health implications you’re managing it. If telling people about the blog means you will be less honest and less likely to explore some of these issues then why do it? BUT if it’s about sharing things then do it, don’t be ashamed of something that is part of you. If others react badly that is their issue and says volumes about them not about you. Be proud of your blog, it seems to have helped you on your weight loss journey and surely that’s why we all started these?
    Pip

    • Nicely said. I think have the self-destruct button is a nice comfort factor though. Helps get past the pessimism and see how people do. The response has been great so far.

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