A Cautionary Tale for Women: My 8-week Experiment with Steroids

Words by Fatima Lee Garsi
This sounds scary already! What kind of steroids did you take FLG? Tell me. 
About five years ago, I was rear-ended in a car accident. I suffered from whiplash, a spinal fracture, a tear between my vertebrae, and a concussion. I had to stop exercising for some time afterwards, especially because of the concussion. This was my second concussion, so this time, I had more experience with how to treat myself. I attended physiotherapy, chiropractic, and massage treatments. It was exhausting. I was getting quite sad not being able to maintain my form of exercise which was boxing and other athletic training. I was feeling less confident in my body. I wanted to exercise but in a way that wouldn’t hurt my back. 

I decided to hire a bodybuilding coach.

Bodybuilding was the safest thing I could think of. The movements were rigid and isolated, I could strengthen my back and core to help heal myself, and I wouldn’t get punched in the face like I would while boxing! 
I knew I didn’t have the body type, genetics, and most importantly, desire to compete in bodybuilding, but I am someone who commits 100 percent. If I’m interested in something new, I will put all my energy and focus into excelling. 
So, if bodybuilding was my new activity I was going to go all in!
A black and white image of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger looking ripped.

Not my coach, but close enough!

I found a coach on the internet who was professional, experienced, and MASSIVE. He had a nice portfolio of clients with impressive before and after photos. This was appealing to me at the time because I was feeling badly about myself. I thought that if I changed my physique, of course I’d feel better!  
And this guy? He could clearly get people results. He was also in his late 40’s or early 50’s so I concluded that he must have had lots of experience. And, he was JACKED. After a brief consultation, I intended to commit for at least a year.
But, after six months, I felt my needs were not being met. I chose not to continue with this coach, but those six months changed me forever. 

Signs my coach was not the right fit for me

There were several issues that arose during our time together that made me realize that this was not the right coaching fit for me.
With time, I realized that although he could clearly get results for other people, something was not working between us. 
Communication: First, my coach did not listen to my concerns or work to communicate with me. Like this stupid glute exercise he invented! I expressed how this exercise simply was not working for me – I was not reaping the benefits that he intended with it and I was very uncomfortable doing it. It made me look like a freak…more like a flopping fish actually. 
I had to lie on my back with a barbell on my hips, legs straight, and just squeeze my ass as hard as possible until I lifted a couple inches off the ground. I can’t tell you how much I hated doing this, especially in a shared space…aside from looking stupid, I don’t think it’s a very good exercise. 
Ideally, an informed and attentive coach would have worked to understand why the exercise was uncomfortable for me and why it wasn’t doing its job. My coach simply laughed it off.
Ineffective Diet and Nutrition Advice: Another clear sign that this wasn’t a client-coach relationship that was working for me was the diet he assigned me. It was terrible. It was bland, restrictive, and rigid and didn’t take into context the rigor of my daily activities and my experience level in exercise. 
An image of a pink and blue chart featuring text outlining a restrictive diet.

A sample of the strict, bland, diet I was instructed to follow.

My coach gave me too much exercise volume to work through with too few calories to eat. Simply put, I wasn’t consuming enough food to energize me through my rigorous workouts. On top of that, each meal was extremely boring and dry. It takes the fun out of food when you are prescribed to eat the same meals every day, in particular portions, at particular times. I was bored, uninspired, and hungry!
As a nutrition coach myself, I knew he could have allowed me to eat what I wanted as long as it fit within my macros and caloric range. Instead, the diet continued to be an unnecessary focal point that showed that my coach was not taking other factors into consideration. 
When I eventually started using steroids under his guidance, he cut my calories to just 1000/day from 1600 because my weight was not going down. He failed to consider that steroids make you retain water and gain size.

So why did I continue with this coach for as long as I did?

At first, I loved the rigorous training. It was very painful and I was incredibly sore every week – especially my legs! I remember my cat putting her paw on my thigh and I grimaced in pain from the light pressure. The workouts were long, grueling, and regimented. They were scheduled for five days a week with two rest days. Each day focused on specific muscle groups. I would record my performance and try to better my output week after week.
It was hard, but the training felt good. I was working hard and getting stronger. It felt great to have a routine and to be back at the gym again. I also loved learning about bodybuilding and bodybuilding nutrition. 
A photograph of a woman's muscular back taken in a mirror.

I could see results from week to week. My hard work seemed to be paying off.

I didn’t enjoy the “diet” I was prescribed… but for the most part, it worked. The amount of meat I was required to eat was very difficult for me to keep up with – and I would consider myself a meat lover! I substituted my last meal of the day with protein powder instead of steak and made adjustments when I could. I was seeing results and I liked it.
I submitted initial measurements and photos of my body, and continued to document my progress. I submitted my weight every week and my photos every month. I was pleased with the results I achieved in the first couple of months. I was not losing weight on the scale, but my body composition improved, my clothes were fitting better, and I was looking more muscular.

I started seeing results and I wanted to take things to the next level.

When I started really geeking out on bodybuilding, I also hosted a temporary roommate. She was into bodybuilding – and she was into steroids. I didn’t think this was unusual. I knew that all professional bodybuilders took steroids and many non-professional lifters and recreational weight lifting athletes took steroids in regular cycles. Bodybuilding and steroids seemed to go hand-in-hand.
We had a conversation about steroids and she encouraged me to try it. Her eyes lit up while talking about it – how amazing it felt! How great the results were! How amazing her body looked! I started doing a lot of research on steroids. I discovered the most common “female friendly” steroid was Anavar (Oxandralone).

Geeking out on steroids

I understood that physique athletes took Anavar in cycles of 6-8 weeks. They would be on Anavar for 6-8 weeks and would then stay off for another 6-8 weeks before doing another cycle. Before, during, and after the Anavar cycle, it’s important for these athletes to take a supplement to support and help detoxify the liver. It’s usually an herbal supplement. Taking steroids is extremely toxic for the body and raises your testosterone levels. 
A woman will generally take 10 mg of Anavar a day, in two doses. So, 5 mg at a time. Compared to what men do, it seemed like nothing! A guy will generally take 50 mg of Anavar per day plus other steroid compounds and straight testosterone. 
Despite the dosing being drastically different, the effects of just 10 mg of Anavar per day for 6-8 weeks can be pretty dramatic with rigorous training. 
I knew that too much testosterone in females can cause “virilization.” This is when females develop masculine physical traits like growing facial hair, deepening of the voice by enlarged vocal chords, and in cases where virilization has really set in, a broadening of facial structure. 
My roommate told me that after cycling for a year (improperly because she did not cycle on and off and took Anavar consistently for the entire year), she noticed her leg hair had changed and that it was more coarse. She had stopped getting her periods. But, her voice had not changed, and she still appeared very feminine. She achieved results that she liked. 
I decided that I would try ONE cycle of Anavar as an experiment. I knew it was unhealthy, but I was curious. I wanted to know what it would feel like. I’m curious and experimental and I’ve done quite a few substances in my life. The thought of taking Anavar excited me – it was like I was “doing drugs” but with “positive” side effects. 
I now realize that this was an idiotic thought. The health-to-risk ratio for taking steroids is so incredibly skewed. There is no actual health benefit to taking steroids. It may change how you look and can give you a sort of spiritual high that is very addictive. You feel like a monster, like you have wings. You’re so strong, and you have incredible energy. You feel like you have a purpose. 
But, in terms of your physiology, there’s just nothing good about it. 
At the time I thought, “my body is resilient – one 6-8 week cycle in my lifetime won’t be a big deal!”


…I was wrong. But, I didn’t know it yet.
I talked about this with my coach. He had a lot of experience with steroids and I trusted his expertise. I was mostly concerned with the side effects and he assured me that one cycle would not damage me long term, that I would look great, and that I would enjoy the experience. I was sold! 

I was excited to start this new, experimental phase of my training.

I started taking a liver support immediately. I couldn’t wait to try the magic of Anavar! 
While I was waiting for my coach’s delivery of Anavar to arrive at my home, my roommate said she had her “old stuff” just laying around. The pills were all halved and it was unclear how much each dose contained. I was supposed to take 15 mg of Anavar (which is a lot for a woman to start with). I took a photo of it and sent it to my coach for approval.
I could have waited for my official, coach-approved supply to arrive. Looking back, I think I took these mystery pills because I was in a deep rut and I wanted an immediate escape. I also thought I had done my due diligence. I had done so much reading and research on steroids that I just wanted to put my foot on the gas pedal and go. I didn’t realize that my history with eating disorders and body dysmorphia made me obsess over this potential body transformation. I was convinced that these crushed up, old, expired pills would dramatically change my physique and essentially heal many sources of pain. I think that’s what motivates many people to take drugs or engage in risky behavior – they are trying to move away from pain. 
I took the pills and I immediately felt a change. Instantly. Like I had wings, energy…energy that had to be released at the gym. 
I loved the feeling. 

But, there were signs that something wasn’t quite right. 

Oddly enough, I gained seven pounds in just 10 days. I didn’t change my diet at all and was working out harder. I was surprised by the water retention. My coach said that was unusual.
That evening I had my first panic attack.
I went out for dinner and felt the room shrink around me. My heart raced. I had to leave the restaurant immediately. I went outside and sprawled out on a patio chair. I stared at the clouds and felt panic rising as my heart raced. I felt stupid for taking this mystery stuff from my roommate. 
A few days later my legit Anavar arrived and I switched over. My weight went back to normal. I was back at the gym and felt like a MONSTER working out.
I also felt like a monster outside of the gym. I was easily agitated. Like perpetual PMS. Libido high, appetite high, irritation level high. The only thing different from PMS was that my energy levels were freakish. I wanted to work out twice a day. 
Also, odd things were happening…down there. My special parts were extremely sensitive and  swelled up the whole time I was on this shit. It was uncomfortable and alarming!

Things started to take a turn…for the worse. 

Nearing the end of my eight-week cycle, I was bench pressing my body weight (160lbs), and squatting 200 lbs for sets of 10. I was really feeling like a beast (mind you, for experienced lifters, this isn’t anything remarkable. But, keep in mind that I was not very strong at all prior to this experience).
I also had multiple panic attacks. I stopped getting my period and experienced anxiety like never before. I was certain I had angina. My left arm went numb, my chest felt very tight, and my vision went blurry. I went to the hospital and my blood pressure was unusually high. The nurses were perplexed; I was adamant that I had angina but I appeared to be a fit and healthy young woman.
Test results showed that I did not have an angina attack. They told me I was experiencing extreme symptoms of anxiety. They gave me a pill for the anxiety. I felt better. 
I also realized that my severe anxiety and all its alarming symptoms were almost certainly a result of taking Anavar. 

Why I’ll never take steroids again

I won’t risk my life: A lot of young fitness people die early because they abuse steroids. Not only does it enlarge your skeletal muscles, but also your heart, your intestines, your bones, and your organs. It’s not good! 

Although WWE wrestler Chyna denied ever using steroids, her autopsy after her death due to an overdose on drugs and alcohol revealed kidney damage usually attributed to an abuse of steroids.

Many men also report impotency, depression, anxiety and suffer from extreme body dysmorphia with the prolonged use of steroids (women too, minus impotency). Steroids cause your hormones to run rampant and tell your body to grow grow grow (of course you need to exercise hard as well). Your organs and intestines aren’t meant to become oversized via the stimulus of steroids and can simply fail because they are being overworked.
For some men, taking a small amount of testosterone or growth hormone may actually be good, but taking large doses of a mixed bag of roids for prolonged periods of time can have grave health consequences. For females in particular, the endocrine system is not meant to handle the surge of testosterone.
I won’t mess with my hormones: Anavar gets marketed as the “female steroid” because of its low probability of causing virilization but NO female should be taking steroids if she truly values her health. My personal experience is not the only motivator for my position. Men and women have different endocrine systems. Males can fuck around a little more with their testorone levels than females because their bodies aren’t meant to birth children and get periods. 
I didn’t get my period for four months after Anavar and continued feeling anxious until my hormone levels went back to normal. If you want to be able to have children, good health, maintain your natural voice, avoid extraneous body hair, maintain regular periods, and the potential of happiness – don’t take Anavar.
True bodybuilders do not need to take copious amounts of steroids because they are genetically gifted.  I feel like this is important to note, particularly for males because of the stigma that is widely held about bodybuilders. 
I won’t sabotage my strength and fitness: While on Anavar, my weight went up despite my eating in a caloric deficit. I was retaining a lot of water and building muscle. Just one week after coming off Anavar, I lost 10 pounds of water weight. I felt like I was deflating. My strength started to dwindle and within a month, my strength completely plummeted.

Looking back…

A good thing came out of my Anavar scare; it made me feel more protective of my health. I value natural, slow, and long-term progress.  
It also made me realize that I still have a lot of inner work to do in order to feel good about myself. For the majority of my life, my self-worth has been tied to my physical appearance. I was taunted and made fun of relentlessly about my weight as a child and then chose a career where a person’s credibility will often be judged on their appearance. I feel there’s always been a lot of pressure on me in this way. There’s definitely LESS pressure now because of the progressive culture of my gym and because I’ve put a lot of time into my personal development. Still, when I’m in dark places, I want a quick fix. 
Now that I’ve taken a different approach to my training cycles (see my last blog “Putting Skin in the Game”) my overall feeling of self-respect and inner strength is at a much higher level than I can recall and it’s only bound to grow from here. 
Remember NO steroids are female-friendly! They will eff you up! 0/10—would not recommend!