Discovery Channel Follows Gynecomastia Story in Sacramento, California

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Video Transcript

Narrator: Tonight we’re talking “man boobs,” an embarrassing condition that’s becoming more and more common. Up to ten percent of the male population – that’s a million Australian men – will develop “man boobs” at some stage in their life. Tonight we launch an investigation into what causes them and what you can do about it. Let’s face it, men are not comfortable talking about “man boobs,” but we’ve tracked down someone who’s overcome those obstacles, and he’s ready to talk.

Narrator: 48 year-old Californian Merle Yost remembers his school days well. Mainly because, as an 11-year-old he started growing breasts.

Yost: I was this tiny, skinny little boy who all of a sudden started sprouting breasts and they were large enough that they were noticed by everybody. The more they developed, the more I got harassed. Guys were constantly grabbing at my chest and girls were offering me their bras and it was, it was quite noticed.

Narrator: The condition that Merle Yost is talking about has a medical name – gynecomastia. It works like this: female breast growth is stimulated by estrogen. For male breasts, it’s testosterone. The problem with boys who develop gynecomastia is that their bodies somehow start producing more estrogen than testosterone – and hey presto, man boobs. Merle Yost tried to eliminate his problem surgically back in the early 90s.

Yost: I would guess that, by the time that I ended up having surgery in 1993, that I was probably in the neighborhood of a B-cup.

Narrator: But the operation wasn’t a complete success, so he’s backing up to finish the job.

Yost: He took this piece, but he really didn’t take this over. It’s really about cleaning up this piece.

Narrator: Merle’s having his second operation at a private hospital in San Francisco.

Dr. Delgado: Hey Merle, how you doing? All set to go?

Yost: I am.

Narrator: Dr. Miguel Delgado has done breast reductions on more than a thousand men like Merle.

Dr. Delgado: We’re gonna need this to really contract a lot, so we have to be very aggressive out here.

Narrator: Dr. Delgado marks out his plan of attack. Merle’s also taking the opportunity to get his love handles removed.

Yost: This is, I guess the bigger –

Dr. Delgado: This is the love handle, yeah. All men have it.

Narrator: Preliminaries over, it’s time for the operation.

Dr. Delgado: I expect the surgery will take approximately four hours, I would say.

Yost: I’ll see you in the morning.

Narrator: Last year alone, 17,000 American men stepped up to have breast reductions. And it’s mostly about getting rid of excess fatty tissue. Dr. Delgado’s got just the thing. It literally melts the fat away.

Dr. Delgado: So you have to be fairly cautious not to overuse it.

Narrator: Once the fat has turned to liquid, it’s liposuctioned out.

Dr. Delgado: I’m tired already.

Narrator: After four hours of poking, prodding, carving, suctioning, draining, and stitching the operation comes to an end.

Dr. Delgado: This was definitely a great success. He’ll have somewhat of a rough ride home, but he’ll get in his bed and take a sleeping pill, and he should do fine.

Narrator: Dr. Delgado seems optimistic but will Merle be as happy with the result? And how will he feel about life without his man boobs? In San Francisco Merle Yost is recovering from breast reduction surgery. It’s been five weeks since the operation. He’s still wearing a compression garment but when he takes it off, the shape of things to come is clear to see.

Yost: I’m actually feeling really optimistic about the surgery. My chest looks dramatically different and it’s only going to get better as the swelling continues to go down.

Narrator: The before and after pictures tell the story well. Merle’s had to update his wardrobe to take account of his new slimline self.

Yost: One of the most exciting or the best parts of this for me has been just the increased freedom. I mean, the freedom to be me. I don’t have to be self conscious about how that shirt is hanging or what I’m wearing and that I feel attractive. People are responding to me like I’m attractive. It just gives me a whole new lease on life in a way that I can be more exciting and have a lot more fun.

Narrator: Merle is keen to be cast as a poster boy for all those guys out there who suffer the shame of man boobs. He’s written a book on the subject, and he set up a website, gynecomastia dot org. He’s getting a million and a half hits a year on it.

Yost: Somebody has to be talking about this because so many men are walking around in shame and nobody’s willing to talk about what’s going on. And the only way to work through that shame is to bring it  into the light and have a discussion so people know what it really is and what it really isn’t.

Narrator: Thanks for being so open about your experience, Merle.