Skip to main content

by Jim Herbert

Back in the late 70s, I used to rush home from school to watch General Hospital on TV with my mom. This was long before the advent of DVRs or even VCRs, so if I wanted to see what happened next it in the adventures of Luke and Laura or watch double agents Robert Scorpio and Anna Devane try to steal the Ice Princess, I needed to be tuned into ABC by 3:00 PM eastern. If I missed a day, I would have to try to catch up on the storyline with any friends who also followed the show, almost all of whom were girls. Back then I usually didn’t talk openly about the fact that I watched daytime dramas out of fear of appearing to be too sensitive or unmanly. I do have to say that being able to talk about the storylines with other teenage girls certainly made it easier to start conversations and get dates though.

One of the lead characters on General Hospital back then was Dr. Rick Weber, who was played by actor Chris Robinson. Even if you didn’t watch General Hospital, you may be old enough to remember Chris Robinson from a rather famous TV ad campaign for Formula 44 cough syrup. In what would turn out to be one of TVs many iconic marketing lines of the 80s, Robinson started the 1986 commercial by saying, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.” That line has gone on to be spoofed and modified in numerous different ways over the years. Here’s my current spoof of that line right now as it relates to this piece of writing::

I’m also not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I do know a few things about the human body after decades of studying nutrition and wellness.

One of the things I’ve been learning a lot about the body lately is how testosterone levels can affect a man’s overall vitality as he ages, and I’m not just talking about how it relates to his sexual performance. Thanks to excellent guidance from my new functional medicine practitioner Anjitha Thomas, along with a whole lot of self-study, I am now 100% convinced that healthy testosterone levels don’t just help men in the bedroom. In my mind, healthy testosterone levels are one of the main keys to longevity for men in general.

About 10 years ago, my wife Christiana, who is a bit of a biohacker, suggested that I get my testosterone levels checked at my next annual physical. I dismissed her invitation and told her that my testosterone levels were just fine. At that point in my mind since I wasn’t having any trouble getting an erection and I wasn’t growing breasts, I had no reason to be concerned about my testosterone levels. I acknowledge that my position was closed minded and defensive, but I didn’t have much curiosity at that point to consider other viewpoints.

A few years later after she continued to persist, I asked my primary care physician about running a testosterone panel with my annual blood work. He told me that he thought it was highly unlikely that I had “Low T” and that I should be focusing my energy more on my high cholesterol. I told him that I would continue to try to get my cholesterol level down naturally and asked him to go ahead and run the testosterone panel, mostly so I could just get Christiana to stop bugging me about it. Sure enough, my testosterone levels came back in the normal range. If I remember correctly, I think my reading at that point was about 375 nanograms per deciliter, which was above the number where a man gets labeled as “Low T”. Christiana remained suspicious.

What I’ve come to learn since then is that the range for what is considered “normal” testosterone level is ridiculously vague. Depending upon what source you use, the recommended “normal“ range for total testosterone is 300 to 1000 ng/dl. I have also learned that one of the primary reasons that it is so vague is because in the late 1990s, about a decade after Dr. Rick Weber was trying to sell us cough medicine on TV, governing bodies made of real doctors, not just TV doctors, established a very broad range of what is considered “normal” for male testosterone levels. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but just so you know, those same doctors were heavily influenced by the insurance lobby.

Apparently up until the late 1990s, doctors could prescribe testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) for pretty much any of their clients who they felt would benefit from supplementing their testosterone levels as they grew older. By making the range broader and lowering the acceptable minimum amount of testosterone to be considered “normal,” insurance companies would no longer be on the hook for what would be considered “non-medically necessary” treatments and the responsibility was shifted to the individual to pay for their own TRT if they chose to do so.

As frustrating as I find our western healthcare and insurance situation pretty much all the time, I actually have no problem with the idea of paying for my own optional therapies to enhance my overall well being. My bigger concern is that this mindset shift over what is considered “normal” testosterone levels has deprived millions of men from understanding the truth that the reason that they are exhausted, feel weak and lose some of their virility as they age is often out of their control and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Decreasing testosterone levels is a common outcome as men age and it can easily be offset with a number of simple therapies and/or lifestyle adjustments.

In the short amount of time that I’ve been openly talking with male clients and friends about the topic of healthy testosterone levels, I have seen a wide range of reactions. Some men are curious right out of the gate and want to hear more. Other men seem to be a bit unsettled when I bring up the topic of testosterone and squirm in their chairs as if their testicles are experiencing a momentary inferiority complex. I’ve even seen a few men get defensive, much like I did 10 years ago, telling me that they don’t need any help and that their testosterone levels are just fine. I can’t help but think that there is still a huge stigma out there that having “Low T” is somehow less masculine. In other words, a “real man“ doesn’t need testosterone replacement therapy.

When I had my blood tests done about a month ago to check on the progress on my systemic candidiasis, my functional medicine practitioner also ran a full testosterone panel. Interestingly, my total testosterone level of 460 ng/dl was higher than it was seven years ago. My sense was that I was just fine and in many ways even better than I had been at an earlier age. My healthy diet, intentional sobriety and increased strength training seemed to be increasing my testosterone levels naturally at a time in life when most men see their levels drop. My practitioner offered me a view through a different lens though. What she asked me was whether or not I wanted to have “normal” testosterone levels or “optimal” testosterone levels. In her mind optimal testosterone levels would be between 800 – 1200 ng/dl, so I was still well below the desired level in her mind.

Keeping in mind that this was the same person who helped me solve a decades long mystery about my overall wellness as it related to my digestive issues, I had little reason to resist her invitation, so about a month ago I started testosterone replacement therapy. It will be a few months before we run another blood panel to see where my numbers for total testosterone levels are at, but I can already tell you that the results are unmistakable. I have more energy. I’ve seen a 5-10% average lift gain in the weight room. My sex drive is coming back online at a level it hasn’t in many years. While I acknowledge that starting TRT is not the only reason I am experiencing some of these positive changes, it certainly has made a significant impact.

For many years I have spoken openly about how important it is for men to learn to ask for help. It started in earnest for me about 20 years ago when anxiety and panic attacks were rocking my world in ways that I had never previously experienced. My “ask for help” at that point as I was having a full blown panic attack while driving on Lake Shore Drive, was to pull over, get my insurance card out of my wallet and call the number on the back of the card for immediate mental health care support. In the years since then, mental health care support has been a fixture in my life and I am proud of the fact that I have had many men tell me through the years that they first explored psychotherapy because of the fact that I openly and confidently spoke about my own experiences.

Over the last few years as I have gotten even more involved with men’s community work and warrior weekend training events and spoken about it openly, I am seeing many men I know get curious about exploring their own relationship with other men and their understanding of mature masculinity. Seeing men open up to the possibility of being morevulnerable and to express their emotions without shame makes my heart feel full in every possible way.

I am glad that I no longer believe that I need to hide my sensitive side to be more manly like I thought I did back in my teens. I now know that my masculinity is in no way tied to what I watch on TV, whether or not I am a double agent who takes daring risks on a daily basis or a random number that measures my total testosterone levels that occur naturally in my blood. My masculinity is a product of the work that I have done to develop a better understanding of Self along with a willingness to ask for help. The way I see it, I can choose to settle for a mostly normal life, or I can strive to optimize as many aspects of my life as possible. Whether it’s psychotherapy, coaching, men’s work or testosterone replacement therapy, I for one will take all the help I can get! My hope is that more and more men will continue to do the same in an ongoing quest to live their own lives healthy, intentionally and optimally.

Meet MenLiving Facilitator, Jim Herbert

Jim is passionate about life and he explores his individual hero’s journey with curiosity and zeal. Jim is a father, husband, yogi, mystic, storyteller, author, coach, teacher and student who sees himself as a spiritual being having an amazing human experience.



  • Ken Cox says:

    Hey Jim
    I literally LOL when I read about your General Hospital addiction! My wife and. I were glued to the whole Luke and Laura thing. Chris Cross even did a song, “Thinkn of Laura”, which became popular. The good old days! Your comment about normal bs optimal life reminded me of a line from a Mary Oliver poem that still resonates with me: “are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?” Thanks for sharing.

    • Jim Herbert says:

      I always love hearing back from you Ken. Your replies are always so thoughtful and entertaining. Looking forward to seeing you on Thursday night! Jim

  • Chris Willett says:

    Jim thank you for the article. The medical system is unbelievably messed up. Years ago my testosterone levels came in super low and my dickhead doctor said we have to retest and when the results of the test came in acceptable I’m sure they were still low my doctor said you don’t need any testosterone replacement. My last blood work showed that I have borderline low testosterone. I believe my results was 249 ng/dl. The doc referred me to a specialist. Had a 45 minute zoom call with the specialist where he talked for 30 minutes about the side effects and another 15 minutes about the process of needing to be tested every two weeks until we can get the right amount of testosterone replacement. This was not something I can tackle at this time in my life, and he partly scared the crap out of me with all the side effects. I don’t know if I need testosterone replacement because I feel like everything is working just fine. However I’m a very curious person and that curiosity makes me wonder how I might feel with normal testosterone levels. You’re lucky to have a doctor that wants you to have testosterone levels between 800 – 1200 ng/dl,range. Your article has inspired me to deal with this issue when I’m more settled.

    Thanks Chris Willett

    • Jim Herbert says:

      Thanks for the awesome reply Chris. I had a few concerns about side effects also, which is why I chose a therapy method where I can adjust the dosage on a daily basis if needed. Happy to share more if you like. Let me know. Thanks for reading and commenting! Jim

Leave a Reply