I’m one of those people who don’t even like to take aspirin for severe pain – I am very cautious of what sort of manufactured items I’m ingesting. Before I started taking testosterone, I thoroughly researched potential outcomes, side effects, and changes that may occur. I understood that taking T was going to be a big decision, and one that would be in some ways irreversible, so as with any major decision, I figured out the pros and cons.
My major factor in starting testosterone was my desire to feel more like myself… I think that’s the best way to put it, although it may be unclear to readers what that means. There were some potential changes that I had to determine if I could deal with should they happen, such as hair loss on my head and hair growth everywhere else. I was excited about some of the changes. Deeper voice? I’ll take it. More muscles and muscle definition? Yes, please.
I was aware of shifting body fat and probable weight changes. My body pre-T was lean and without curves, so I anticipated gaining some weight. In the first year of testosterone, I gained 12 pounds – 10 percent of my pre-T weight. It appeared to be mostly in my cycling legs, but in general, there became a bit more of me. While I understood this idea before injecting my first dose, I never thought about what that would actually feel like.
Truthfully, I’ve been having a hard time recently getting used to the idea of there being more of me. I like the way it looks, I love the way it performs (my athletic successes recently have been a dream come true), but living in this slightly bigger body has been challenging.
A defining moment: the spring closet change over. I was about to package up my sweaters for the summer months and decided to try them all on first (in a NYC apartment, storing things I won’t wear next year is a waste of valuable space). Of a dozen sweaters, seven of them were too tight. This was not a laundering mistake; I got bigger (or as I’d like to call it, “hulked out”). In many ways, this is my own doing by way of P90X and protein shakes in addition to taking testosterone. Yet the conflict remains: I’m happy with the results, but getting used to a new density of my physical composition has been difficult.
I have a very lean, athletic and muscular body type. I have a single digit body fat percentage; I am fully aware I am unlikely to get any sympathy for outgrowing my XS sweaters, and rightfully so. Yet, when I move, it feels more forceful than it did two years ago. I feel more solid and sturdier – both positive changes for me, previously in danger of being blown away by a strong gust of wind, but in some ways, it feels like I am wearing extra clothes. There are times I feel hyper-aware of the difference in how I feel in this skin. Thicker. Bulkier. It feels somewhat impossible to explain this to others. Perhaps it is like getting a drastic hair cut: you love the way it looks but you didn’t think about what it would be like when you run your fingers through your new ’do.
I know this is a permanent change. There is little to no weight I could lose without being or becoming ill, and I don’t really want to lose weight – I’m just not used to seeing the numbers on the scale read what they do now. The disbelief is similar in the same way that I can’t believe I’m consistently running sub-6 minute miles, which is likely a positive result of gaining a few extra pounds of muscle. These are, as my partner says, “champagne complaints” – good things wrapped in complex little perspective shifts.
Over the years, I have a constructed vision of what my reflection on a shiny object will look like – part of this is based on past reflections and part is made of fantasies of what I’d like to see. What I actually see is somewhere in the middle, but getting closer to dream land. I believe the complexity of my mixed feelings about my new body lies in the fact that while I wasn’t totally happy with my physical being two years ago, I was used to it.
As with all changes, this will take some getting used to.