Health & Fitness | October 4, 2016 9:00 am

I Have Manboobs, and This Is My Story

Natural remedies, avoiding mirrors and other strategies

I Have Manboobs, and This Is My Story
Chris Caulfield

Look closely at the picture above. You can make them out, just barely: manboobs. Not too bad, right? But there’s a reason I’m wearing that loose-fitting shirt. And raising my arms above my head. And flashing that dazzling smile. I’ve come up with a few strategies, ways to manage the moobs. But they’re still there. 

It was my sophomore year in college when I first noticed them. Hey, wait a minute, I said to myself one morning. These look like breasts. At the time, I partied a lot, as you do in college. I’d drink way too much on the weekends, and I also smoked pot. After a weekend of partying, that’s when I’d notice them the most. At first, my pecs would just feel sore. But then they started getting bigger.

After a few days, they’d shrink back down, for the most part — but the baseline kept increasing. For a while, I didn’t do all that much about them. I guess I figured the problem would just go away once I left college and settled in to the real world; when I quit going out so much. The only thing I did to deal with the problem was to start buying fitted white undershirts for compression. And eventually I stopped getting dressed in front of the mirror. I was never teased — or, at least, no one ever said anything to me — and I even met the person I’d eventually marry. I guess you could say I’ve been lucky in many regards.

But then I graduated, cleaned up my act, and guess what? I still had man boobs.

A few years back, I dropped a significant among of weight. My body fat was extremely low. The irony, of course, is that just made my breasts, those stubborn bastards, look bigger and more pronounced — because they’re breast tissue, not fat. Same with chest exercises: For me, at least, gaining more muscle underneath only made my gynecomastia appear bigger. My weight and fitness levels now are pretty mediocre. I work out, but to be honest, I’ve found that a little bit of generalized fat — looking a little thick, all over — helps to block the appearance of my breasts.

Eventually, I became a family nurse practitioner. And having specialized in the field of hair restoration, I also founded Develop Hair, a website devoted to helping men find solutions to maintaining and regrowing their hair. In the field of hair loss, I see so many men facing similar issues of insecurity. There are certain ways men are “told” we are supposed to look, and we all hear them. I can relate. It’s part of why I got into this particular field. At work and through my site, I help men (and women) get hair back, but I also help alleviate insecurity.

A few years back, my doctor sent me for lab tests to check my endocrine functions. It turns out that both my testosterone and estrogen levels are off, but in a range they still call “normal,” so not quite enough to warrant medical treatment.

Through my work as an nurse, though, I’ve found some holistic solutions. Some studies say that phytoestrogens can help reduce the size of male breasts by blocking the receptors for the glandular tissue. I’ve tried them all, and I’ve had good results with flaxseed oil, which contains omega-3s that raise testosterone while reducing estrogen levels, and also turmeric, which increases testosterone and aids liver function. I’ll grind up flaxseed and put it in my cereal. Turmeric can be added to smoothies, but I usually take it in capsule form. I also cut dairy milk out of my diet, since most milk has been treated with hormones and growth factors.

All in all, those small lifestyle changes have been pretty effective. And, of course, I rarely go out anymore — not like I did 10 years ago, anyway — and I no longer smoke pot. When I do have a few beers, I still feel it, and I see an increase in my breast size, but if I’m being good about my supplements, it’s minimal.

And yet, most days I just feel like I’m biding my time until I can afford surgery, which I’ve been told would run me around $10,000. My condition isn’t severe enough, I’m told, to be a candidate for any sort of insurance coverage. I’d have to be prepared to say that my gynecomastia causes me extreme discomfort, or severely limits me, and to be honest, I can’t make that claim. Maybe it would be a bigger problem if I were still single. That said, I still can’t walk by a store window and not check myself out, and then get discouraged by what I see, so from a psychological level, having breasts does cause me problems. Also, I’m 31 now, and as I get older and worry more about my health, I want to exercise and drop some of this body fat. Right now, it’s the potential of my breasts getting more obvious that’s stopping me.

I often find myself thinking about what I’d do, what sort of chest I’d like. I think I’d consider a surgery that combined reduction and a little strategic shaping, but ultimately I just want something that looks natural.

Natural for a guy, I mean.  

As told to Alyssa Giacobbe