How to Quit Vaping: This New Texting-Based Program Can Help You Start

If you’ve ever tried to quit vaping and failed—or just thought about it, but weren’t sure where to start—you’re not alone. Last year, the FDA started taking action to combat what it calls an “epidemic of addiction” to e-cigarettes and vape products among young people. Fortunately, anyone looking to kick the habit just got a little extra help.

Truth Initiative, the non-profit public health organization behind those iconic anti-smoking campaigns you grew up with, has launched a first-of-its-kind texting-based tool to help people stop vaping, in addition to a new campaign called Safer ≠ Safe.

“We were starting to see people talking about wanting to quit vaping and struggling with wondering how to go about it, if the same strategies apply, if other people were having trouble, where to go,” Amanda Graham, Ph.D., research investigator and senior vice president of the innovations team at Truth Initiative that developed the new program, tells SELF.

Truth Initiative’s new program is explicitly for people who want to quit vaping.

“Cessation programs have almost all been structured for traditional cigarette users,” Jonathan D. Klein, M.D., M.P.H., an adolescent medicine specialist in the department of pediatrics at University of Illinois Health, tells SELF.

But vape users typically don’t identify themselves smokers, Edward Trapido, Sc.D., F.A.C.E., professor, chair of cancer epidemiology, and associate dean for research at Louisiana State University New Orleans School of Public Health, tells SELF. So all the quitting campaigns and programs targeted at smokers aren’t actually speaking to people who vape.

There are other good reasons for putting vape users in a separate category. For instance, although breaking either habit is hard—given nicotine dependence is the mechanism of addiction associated with both—vaping and smoking are not the same, and neither is quitting them. “Some of the issues associated with addiction to electronic cigarettes definitely are a little different than with regular cigarettes,” Trapido says, including things like vape-users’ ages and the social acceptance of their habit compared to smokers. Experts are aware of these unique challenges, and the need for a cessation program accounting for them.

Unlike traditional smokers, vape users get decidedly mixed messaging about the safety of their devices.

While the science on the negative health consequences of conventional tobacco use (e.g. combustible cigarettes) couldn’t be clearer, the jury is still out on the health effects of vaping and e-cigarettes; they simply haven’t been around yet long enough to study that.

But “there’s no question that e-cigarettes are safer than cigarettes,” Donna Shelley, M.D. M.P.H., a professor in the departments of Population Health and Medicine at NYU Langone Health, tells SELF. There is also mounting evidence that e-cigarettes can indeed help some people quit smoking, although we need more research, Dr. Shelley says. Unlike nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or NRT products such as nicotine patches, gum, and lozenges, e-cigarettes are not an FDA-approved tobacco cessation product.

However, as SELF explained previously, they may have the opposite effect in younger people who are not already smokers, possibly making it more likely that they’ll transition to traditional cigarettes.

This positioning of vaping products as a consistently safe alternative has led to some hazy understanding about the potential harms of e-cigarettes and vaping—which makes starting easier and quitting harder. “There’s a lot of misinformation and basic information lacking about the fact that these are not benign products,” says Dr. Klein (who is also scientific director of the American Academy of Pediatrics Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence, a national center dedicated to preventing children’s exposure to tobacco). For starters: “Young people especially are not always aware that all vape products contain nicotine, and often in high amounts,” Trapido says.

Understanding the chemical dependence that makes e-cigarettes so highly addicting may prevent teens from starting to vape in the first place, of course—but it’s also a crucial thing to grasp if you’re trying to quit. One Truth Initiative study published in the journal Tobacco Control in April 2018 conducted an online survey assessing JUUL perception and usage among 1,012 young adults aged 15 to 24. While 25 percent of the respondents recognized a photo of a JUUL, only 25 percent of that subset reported that all JUUL products contain nicotine. Among the 8 percent of respondents who reported using a JUUL in the last month, only 37 percent said they knew JUUL products contain nicotine.

Another big obstacle unique to vaping is how widespread and commonplace it has become. “People know the risks of cigarette smoking,” Trapido says, and smokers may have friends or family that look down on their habit. But that’s not the case with vaping, the sheer popularity of which makes it more socially acceptable and difficult to escape from—especially for young people.

“What we’ve heard from people and seen across social media over and over again is that, because e-cigarette use and JUULing have become so ubiquitous, it’s literally in their face constantly,” Graham says. Plus, while you can’t get away with lighting up a cigarette anywhere indoors anymore, vapes are incredibly portable and easily concealed, Trapido points out, so people are using them everywhere. (Even if there are rules or laws against it.)

For the new program, Truth Initiative is tailoring strategies from their existing digital programs for tobacco cessation to those who want to quit vaping.

Here’s how it works: First, you text QUIT to 202-804-9884. Users can also join via Truth Initiative’s other quitting programs, the This Is Quitting app or The system replies asking your age range (or if you’re a parent of someone trying to quit) and giving you the option to enter a quit date.

From there, you’ll typically receive one message a day with specific information and advice (tips to combat withdrawal symptoms, for instance), with options to reply asking for more info as well as more frequent messages as your quit date approaches. “It’s largely structured around helping people develop coping strategies to deal with withdrawal, social situations, cravings—addressing the behavioral aspects of nicotine addiction,” Graham explains. The library of messages includes tricks for dealing with cravings, strategies for navigating social situations, help with goal-setting, and information about NRT. “It’s full of concrete steps and recommendations based on our learnings from helping people quitting combustible cigarettes, but tweaked,” Graham says.

For instance, there are messages about why cutting down is easier than going cold turkey, and tips on how to do that—like reducing your ability to use your own vape by leaving your JUUL at home when you go to school or out to a party, Graham says. But given the social pressure teens face, there are also messages offering specific suggestions on how to say no when somebody offers a JUUL.

There is also information about withdrawal symptoms in order to help “normalize those feelings and let kids know to expect them, so they don’t become anxiety-provoking,” Graham explains. You can also text key words like crave, slip, or stress to get messages of encouragement, some of which are in the form of quotes from real quitters that Truth Initiative has collected from across its social media platforms.

The program was built to be as simple and low-lift as possible, Graham says. “We’ve learned that a light-handed approach with younger people tends to work the best,” Graham explains, “so this way we’re offering help that’s available if they want it, but we’re not bombarding them.”

The content of the messages is different based on your age.

To address the widening spectrum of nicotine addiction, users can get different messages depending on whether they are under 13, 13-17, 18-24, over 24, or a parent. For instance, Truth Initiative researchers have observed that different age groups tend to use different terms to describe their devices, Graham says, so the language of the messages reflect that. Younger teens usually refer to “JUULing” specifically, while adults talk about e-cigarettes and vaping more generally.

Another example: Adults can get NRT products over-the-counter or by prescription, while those under 18 need parental permission to get a prescription from a clinician and access treatment. So although both a 16-year-old and a 26-year-old will get information explaining how NRT works, the 16-year-old will be advised on talking to their parents about it.

An important call-out to the over-24 crowd here: While the bulk of the conversation right now is about adolescents, Dr. Shelley says there is absolutely a need for cessation assistance for ex-smoker adults now hooked on e-cigarettes—many of whom have essentially traded one addiction for another, albeit a less harmful one. For instance, a U.K. study of 886 smokers trying to quit published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week found that e-cigarettes were more effective than traditional nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) methods. But at the one-year mark, 80 percent of the successful quitters in the e-cigarette group were still using the product (compared to just 9 percent of successful quitters in the NRT group).

The program also looks pretty different for parents, of course. They will get messages that help validate their frustration and the feeling like they have failed to protect their kids, for example. There are also stress-management tips and information on how to both practically and emotionally support a child trying to quit, Graham says.

Experts are relieved to see this long-overdue resource.

They also encourage anyone trying to quit using any method to stick with it. “We need to help young people get off these products if they want to, and the Truth Initiative program is filling a big gap in public health resources,” Dr. Shelley says. “I hope its the first of several steps.”

Trapido agrees: “Any modality to help people stop is great, and I’m optimistic that this will be a major step forward.”

At the same time, it’s important to remember that there is no easy fix or one-size-fits-all solution. “Changing one’s behavior is pretty hard, and nicotine addiction is a serious issue that doesn’t have a magic cure,” Dr. Klein says, adding that anyone having a hard time should talk to their primary care doctor. “Just like with tobacco products, cessation is never simple and it’s never easy,” Trapido says. “So people shouldn’t be put off if they’re not successful the first time. It often takes repeated attempts to be successful.”


Here’s How to Make Your Own Ghee

Ghee may seem like the hottest new ingredient for those of us in the Western world, but it’s actually been used in cuisine as well as in Ayurvedic medicine on the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years.

Ghee is often considered to be a kind of clarified butter, but they aren’t identical, Alakananda Ma, president of the National Ayurvedic Medicine Association, tells SELF. “Ghee is similar to clarified butter in that it does not contain milk solids,” she explains, “However, when making clarified butter, you strain the butter as soon as it has separated.” With ghee, she says the butter should continue to cook until the milk solids turn golden brown and sink to the bottom of the pan—this extra step gives ghee its distinctive nutty flavor.

Traditionally, ghee is used in religious practices and Ayurvedic medicine.

Nita Sharda, R.D., founder of Carrots and Cake Balanced Nutrition Consulting, tells SELF that ghee is frequently used beyond the kitchen in Indian traditions. “It’s in a candle we light when pray,” she explains, “[and] I remember getting married and dumping ghee in the fire.”

Ma says that ghee is used this way because of its importance to the ancient Vedic religion, in which cows are revered and so are their gifts: dung, urine, milk, curd, and ghee. “The ancient Vedic religion is centered in fire ceremonies,” she adds, “and ghee has always been the foremost offering that makes the fire burn brightly.”

In Ayurveda, ghee is frequently used as food and medicine, Ma explains. “As a food for daily use, ghee is taken with meals for all who desire nourishment,” she says. As a medicine, it is often prepared with different herbs in the hopes of improving a variety of conditions, from poor eyesight to sperm production.

It’s thought to have many health benefits, and it’s generally considered safe to eat for the lactose intolerant.

Though ghee is often purported to be great for improving heart health and reducing inflammation, there isn’t yet enough research to back up these claims, Vandana Sheth, R.D.N., C.D.E, owner of a Los Angeles-based nutrition consulting practice and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells SELF. However, because it doesn’t contain any milk solids or lactose, it is generally considered to be safe to eat for those who are lactose intolerant. One thing to keep in mind: Because the milk solids are strained by hand in homemade ghee, it can contain trace amounts of lactose. Mass-produced ghee uses far more stringent practices that guarantee a fully lactose-free product, so anyone who’s really sensitive may want to opt for one of those options instead. As for the ingredient’s nutritional profile, it’s slightly higher in fat and calories than butter because it’s more concentrated. Sheth recommends using it in moderation and as a substitute for something else, like butter or olive oil.

It’s great for cooking all kinds of cuisines.

Sharda says it’s known for appearing in daal (a type of lentil soup), chana masala (stewed chickpeas), and saag (blended and stewed spinach and broccoli). She says it’s also great by itself on top of fresh, hot roti or naan (try not to drool). But lately, she says she’s been using it in non-Indian recipes and loving it. She says it can add a nutty and buttery flavor (without the lactose!) to everything from roasted veggies like green beans to popcorn. And it has a smoke point of 480 degrees F, which means it can cook at a much higher temperature than butter without burning, which only has a smoke point of 350 degrees F.

And it’s super easy to make!

Here, I try out the process myself with tips from Priya Krishna, author of the forthcoming cookbook, Indian-ish. Use what I learned and you’ll know how to make your own ghee right at home—it’ll make your whole house smell like butter!

You don’t need any fancy equipment—just a pot, a slotted spoon or ladle, and some unsalted butter.

Audrey Bruno

Set the pot over a medium heat and add as much butter as you like—there’s no limit. White bubbles will gradually begin to form, which Krishna says are the milk solids. Using a spoon or a fork or whatever you have around, remove the white bubbles from the top. I used a ladle with holes in it, but you can really use whatever tool you have around to get the job done. At this point, the liquid should be making a soft, bubbling sound.

Audrey Bruno

While the butter is cooking, set a coffee filter or a cheese cloth over a bowl or liquid measuring cup—this is what you’ll use to strain the remaining milk solids. After about five to seven minutes, the sound will change from bubbling to crackling; this means that all the water has almost evaporated. The liquid will become clear and you’ll start to see brown solids forming at the bottom of your pan. As soon as this starts to happen, remove the pan from the heat, and pour the liquid through your filter—it’ll strain slowly, so be patient. After the liquid has passed through entirely, transfer it to a glass jar with a lid, allow it to cool, and close it up. Because the water has been removed, it can safely be stored at room temperature where it will solidify.

Ghee on the left; separated milk solids on the right; Audrey Bruno

And that’s it! Use your homemade ghee in these easy recipes.

Dal Tadka

With a bit of ghee, this classic Indian dish, which is made from lentils, broth, and lots of spices will taste way more authentic. Get the recipe here.

Roasted Vegetables With Caramelized Onion Purée

Roasting vegetables with ghee gives them a deliciously rich and nutty flavor. Get the recipe here.

Chana Masala

Not only is this saucy chickpea recipe way, way better than the ready-made frozen kinds you’d find at the store, it’s also the perfect way to use your ghee. Get the recipe here.

No sweat? That’s an issue for home-schooled children

Parents who home-school their children may think putting them into organized sports and physical activities keeps them fit, but Rice University researchers say young people need more.

Faculty at the Rice Department of Kinesiology studied data gathered from 100 home-schooled children age 10-17 to back up their assumption that such activities are sufficient to keep children physically fit. The data, however, proved them wrong.

The Rice researchers’ results are available in an open-access paper in the Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology.

Laura Kabiri, a sports medicine lecturer at Rice, said the problem lies in how much activity is part of organized regimens. According to the World Health Organization, children should get about an hour of primarily aerobic activity a day, but other studies have noted children involved in non-elite sports actually get only 20 to 30 minutes of the moderate to vigorous exercise they require during practice.

The Rice researchers decided to quantify it through statistics Kabiri gathered about home-schooled children and adolescents as a graduate student and postdoctoral researcher at Texas Woman’s University.

“We assumed — and I think parents largely do as well — that children enrolled in an organized sport or physical activity are getting the activity they need to maintain good body composition, cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular development,” Kabiri said. “We found that is not the case. Just checking the box and enrolling them in an activity doesn’t necessarily mean they’re meeting the requirements they need to stay healthy.”

Kabiri said the researchers suspect the same is true for public school students in general physical education classes, where much of the time is spent getting the class organized. “When you only have 50 minutes, it’s very easy for half that time or more to go to getting them in, out and on-task,” she said.

While public school data would be easier to gather, home schooling presents a different problem for researchers. “There’s a lot that’s not known about this population, and the population is expanding,” Kabiri said. “Home school is becoming very popular in the United States. It’s grown steadily.

“And now that Texas students can have a free online public education starting in grade 3, I think this population is going to expand. I want to make sure that the health aspect and the physical activity and exercise components of their education don’t fall through the cracks,” she said.

“My understanding is that the state program addresses physical education, but if you’re a general home-school student in the state of Texas, there is no requirement at all for physical activity, and physical education, nutrition and exercise information is largely left up to the parents,” she added.

The authors concluded parents would be wise to give their children more time for unstructured physical activity every day.

“Parents know if they attend activities and don’t see their kids breathing and sweating hard, then they’re not getting enough exercise,” Kabiri said. “So there should be more opportunities for unstructured activity. Get your kids outside and let them run around and play with the neighborhood kids and ride their bikes.

“If I learned one thing about home-school families, it’s that they are really dedicated to the entire education of their children,” she said. “If there’s an issue, they will want to know and will make adjustments as needed.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Rice University. Original written by Mike Williams. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

11 Wellness Things Our Editors Tried and Loved This Month

Here at SELF, we’re always testing wellness products—whether it’s cult-favorite makeup, skin-care products, fitness gear, or food, we’re always trying out something. We’re so lucky that this is part of our job—getting to play with free stuff is a pretty awesome perk. But not everything lives up to the hype, so when something stands out from the pack, we’re excited to share it with our readers. Here, SELF staffers gush about 11 products they tried and legitimately loved this month.

(Note: This list includes a mix of stuff we received gratis for testing and stuff we purchased recently, but everything is here just because we actually really like it.)

What Does a Migraine Feel Like? 13 People Explain the Pain and Discomfort

Headaches in general suck. But for people who deal with migraines, the discomfort can blow more typical, garden-variety head pain out of the water. Even though a lot of people use “migraine” and “headache” interchangeably, not all headaches would be classified as migraines.

Migraines differ from person to person, but the pain associated with migraines tends to be pretty distinct. Put simply, “A migraine is a severe headache with other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, and/or sound sensitivity,” Kevin Weber, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF.

Some migraine experts think of tension headaches (which are the type that anyone can get, for instance, the headache you might feel after sitting in front of your computer at work all day, not drinking enough water) as milder versions of migraines, all on the same continuum, Dr. Weber explains; others believe they are two distinct headache types. “Tension headaches typically do not have much nausea, photophobia, or phonophobia,” Dr. Weber says, referring to the extreme sensitivity to light and sound that can often accompany migraines. “They shouldn’t have any vomiting and they are usually less severe.”

Migraines tend to fluctuate in frequency and severity throughout a person’s life. A single migraine episode can last hours or even days and can go through different stages, too. Researchers don’t fully understand what causes migraines but believe it has something to do neurological abnormalities in the brain that trigger migraines, as SELF reported previously. There also seems to be a large genetic component, “Although many of my patients aren’t able to identify a family member with migraine,” Dr. Weber notes.

With a typical headache you may be able to drink some water, pop an over-the-counter pain med, and power through. But in the case of a typical migraine, your standard headache treatment probably won’t work. “Most people would prefer to lay down and even go to sleep,” Dr. Weber describes. “My patients tend to describe migraine pain as severe pain that is crushing, pounding, and/or throbbing. Some say it radiates from front to back, or vice versa.”

That sounds about right: When we asked 13 people who have dealt with migraines throughout their lives to describe the sensation they feel in their head and body, words like “crushing,” “pounding,” and even “exploding” came up quite a bit.

Keep reading for more vivid details of their migraine experiences to get a sense of what this particular type of headache really feels like.

1. “The top of my skull feels like it’s being pressed down on.” —Fernando, 32

“I can feel the pounding in my temples, or in my eyes, depending on where the migraine is. If it’s a migraine on one side, that eye gets very watery and my temple throbs, and the top of my skull feels like it’s being pressed down on. I definitely have to avoid looking directly at light. Thankfully, I do not feel nauseous.

“With one particularly bad migraine, I could not get up from bed because every time I was upright, seated or standing, the pain [would be] in the left side of my head. I had to stay in bed lying on the side that did not hurt, while manually massaging my left temple until it had subsided slightly.”

2. “I have to avoid all light or it just feels like someone is stabbing me.” —Elizabeth, 34

“I started getting migraines in high school but I didn’t understand what they were and took an unhealthy amount of [OTC pain medication]. My friend’s dad (a pediatrician) told me to see a neurologist. I did when I got to New York for college and was diagnosed with migraines without aura and chronic daily headache. The first symptoms were pain and nausea, always around one eye. My neck also hurt all the time.

“I first start to feel tightness and pain in my neck, and I stretch it and roll it, trying to decide if [a migraine] is coming. Then I generally get sweaty and nauseous and anxious, a bit like I’m having a panic attack. Sometimes I get weird symptoms like a runny nose and sneezing. Then the pain starts, usually over one eye, and it feels like my head is going to explode. I have to avoid all light or it just feels like someone is stabbing me.

“Last year I had a big meeting and was taking an Uber to work. I woke up with a migraine but thought I caught it in time with medication. Ten minutes into the car ride, the pain got so bad. But we were stuck in traffic on an L.A. freeway. I was meditating and trying anything I could to calm it down but the Uber driver wouldn’t stop talking. Finally, I threw up in my bag—I didn’t want to throw up in the Uber!—and all over my work laptop and papers. It was a nightmare but I was in too much pain to care. I walked into work, washed my bag out and threw out everything, wiped down my laptop (which then didn’t turn on) and went into my meeting.”

3. “It begins to be such intense pain that I feel nauseous.” —Mary, 26

“I tend to get them most often at the end of the day. It starts off with light pain and pressure, always in the front of my head, behind my forehead. As the pain increases, typically over the course of 30 to 45 minutes, it begins to be such intense pain that I feel nauseous. (I have only actually gotten sick a handful of times since I was diagnosed.) Personally, the pain comes in waves with 30 second intervals; it will be intense pain for 30 seconds, then light pain for 30, and back to full intensity.

“One time, I had a migraine at the end of the day in college and when I got home, the pain was coming in such intense waves that I could barely get out of bed. When I stood, the rush of standing up caused so much pain that I threw up. I got back into bed and made my boyfriend push on my forehead because, for some reason, the pressure he applied to my forehead would slightly release the pain. As I tried to fall asleep, I was crying from being in so much pain. I woke multiple times in the night, each time with fewer migraine symptoms, and then had no pain by morning.”

4. “I thought I was having a stroke or some kind of brain failure because my vision went out in my right eye.” —Dominique, 28

“I didn’t know the difference between a headache and a migraine until I was older. They were just ‘bad headaches’ to me. It wasn’t until college that I got my first aura migraine, which was the scariest symptom ever. I thought I was having a stroke or some kind of brain failure because my vision went out in my right eye.

“[Migraines are] so hard to describe; sometimes they feel like a splitting sensation through my eye and temple, extending toward the back of my head. Sometimes it’s localized to one side; other times it’s the full head. It’s such a wild thing to have this pain with no trauma, because it feels like an injury. Typically for me it’s either behind my eyes, in my temples, or in the back of my skull (or a combination of those three).

5. “The sensation is like a helmet on your head that just keeps getting tighter.” —Lauren, 29

“The best way I can describe it for myself is that it’s such debilitating pain that it takes over everything else. I have to vomit, my neck tightens up, I become sensitive to light and smells (the smell of popcorn is a death sentence). Even voices can make it worse. The sensation is like a helmet on your head that just keeps getting tighter, and you feel like your head will explode.

“In December, I was driving back from the University of Michigan after being at a conference. I didn’t have my prescription on me and I had a headache from the anxiety I felt all day and lack of the right food, etc. Around 3 P.M., the migraine hit. But I had no choice other than to drive (in a snowstorm) the two hours back home. I had to pull over and vomit off the side of the highway. The rest of the drive home I honestly almost blacked out because the pain was so intense. My head felt like someone was taking a hammer to it. I remember calling my husband crying like a baby.”

6. “I have to be in a completely dark room with a cold compress and hope to fall asleep until it passes.” —Clare, 27

“At first they were extremely scary and I thought I was going blind, as I would have blurred and almost complete loss of vision. I have to be in a completely dark room with a cold compress and hope to fall asleep until it passes. One time, I was in the shower and almost slipped and fell because of my loss of vision. I cried out and one of my roommates came running and she helped walk me to my bed.

“It’s honestly difficult to manage [migraines] as they come at random times every few months. However, I’ve learned to recognize the symptoms and hopefully nip it in the bud before it gets too bad.”

7. “I would rather have a combination of a stomach bug and the flu for a month straight over a migraine cluster.” —Manny, 27

“I started getting migraines the first year I got out of college. I officially received a diagnosis a year later when I finally went to the doctor. I was staring at my computer screen and I remember a strange feeling, like my neck was tensing up and my vision had a strange crack in it. I now know that this is what’s called an aura.

“A migraine feels like someone grabbed a hot rod and pressed it against one side of your head. It’s a pulsating pain that you feel with every heartbeat mixed with intense nausea and dizziness. The worst part is that you never know when it’s going to happen or how intense it’s going to be when it does. I’ve had migraines during work, on dates, in class, and on vacation, and it always ruins the day.

“To put it in perspective, I would rather have a combination of a stomach bug and the flu for a month straight over a migraine cluster. At least with the stomach bug and the flu you know what to expect and can mitigate that.”

8. “The first time it happened I thought I’d been roofied.” —Ilana, 29

Ocular migraines are like seeing the world in slow motion. The first time it happened I thought I’d been roofied. I moved my hand in front of my face and there were sixteen hands trailing in front of me. It was bizarre, especially since I wasn’t in pain like you would be with a normal migraine. Migraines are slow building—like a pressure in the back of your head that gets worse and worse each day until it feels like your eye will pop out of their sockets. And nothing makes that pressure go away. Migraines can feel like someone punched me in the eye, or maybe like I held my breath for too long, or like I’m being held upside down and all the blood is rushing to my head.

“One incident with my ocular migraines was at a park on a sunny day. I was walking and suddenly this dark figure walked into my line of vision and out. It [looked like] a black shape of a person, but I was totally alone. I’d only ever seen small shapes, like balls of light or dark, but this looked like a man. It totally creeped me out.”

9. “It’s as if there’s a glass shattered in front of me and I can’t see.” —Cory, 26

“I remember having my first migraine when I was in fifth grade, but then didn’t have one again until I was around 22. Since migraines run in my family, and I come from a family of doctors, I was able to sort of self-diagnose. I went to a neurologist, who classified it as a classic migraine.

“The first symptom is a disturbing aura that takes over my vision. It’s as if there’s a glass shattered in front of me and I can’t see. My vision literally disappears or I see a psychedelic pattern. That lasts for about 20 minutes. (I always listen to the Hamilton soundtrack because it distracts me.) Then, the headache comes on one side of my forehead. It’s literally the worst pain you can imagine; I have a really high pain tolerance. Anywhere from 4 to 5 hours later I will get really nauseous and then vomit. After I puke, I usually feel better, and almost deliriously happy that it’s over.

“I got three in one day when I was on vacation in Hawaii. That was horrible because I didn’t have my medication with me. I was in so much pain, just weeping in the hotel room like a baby and barfing my brains out—or trying to, at least. And I couldn’t look at the sunset or scenery because it looked like my aura.”

10. “It honestly feels like I cannot function.” —Emily, 31

“The worst migraine felt like my head was going to explode. I had a ton of pressure in my face, especially around my jaw, and I felt as if I didn’t get relief I would throw up. It honestly feels like I cannot function. It’s very hard to think or talk to people, especially if I am in the office.

“It depends on the severity, but sometimes a nice shower and a glass of cold water knocks it out. Other times, if it is particularly nasty, I try to sleep it off. Most of the time though, being a new mom, I take a painkiller, power through it, and count the minutes until bedtime.”

11. “It can be so distracting and painful that it’s almost impossible to think or carry on a conversation.” —Amanda, 27

“I’ve always had frequent headaches, but the migraines started around age 22. The first symptom I feel is a severe, piercing pain right between my eyebrows or sometimes what feels like behind my eye sockets. It can be so distracting and painful that it’s almost impossible to think or carry on a conversation. Then, my sensitivity to light and smell become increasingly worse, which sometimes will lead to nausea. Often, my migraines seem to come out of nowhere and advance very quickly.

“One distinct memory I have is getting a migraine right before a date. At the time, I was in my apartment finishing getting ready when all of a sudden I keeled over and had a piercing pain in my forehead. I had to turn off all the lights and lay down on my side, practicing slow breathing to try to relieve the pain. I had to cancel the date less than an hour before we were supposed to meet, which was definitely embarrassing, and I lied there on my bed for hours.”

12. “It feels like needles stabbing the back of my eyeballs and enormous pressure surrounding my entire head.” —Cami, 23

“One early morning in high school I couldn’t even open my eyes because of light sensitivity and could not get out of bed to tell my parents. I laid there until someone found me. Every motion hurt, and doing a task such as showering seemed impossible. It feels like needles stabbing the back of my eyeballs and enormous pressure surrounding my entire head.”

13. “Sometimes it feels as if my brain is swelling.” —Sarah, 30

“My migraines started around age 19. I would see flashes or my computer screen would be blurry all of a sudden. Later I learned what I was experiencing was called an aura. After an aura, I’d vomit or dry-heave.

“I feel a sharp pain that comes with pressure all around my head. Sometimes it feels as if my brain is swelling. Light and sounds are the worst. A ‘good’ migraine lasts two days; my worst has lasted five days.

“One time I was out to dinner with a friend. We had Thai. On the way home, as I waited at a red light, the lights on the street began to glow and shine outside of the traffic light itself. I unlocked my front door and ran to the bathroom. Long story short: My Thai dinner was a waste, I ended up not going clubbing with my friend, and I was in bed at 7 P.M. Buzz kill.”

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.


The dangers of hidden fat: Exercise is your best defense against deep abdominal fat

Scientists know that the type of fat you can measure with a tape isn’t the most dangerous. But what is the most effective way to fight internal, visceral fat that you cannot see or feel? The answer: exercise.

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center analyzed two types of interventions — lifestyle modification (exercise) and pharmacological (medicine) — to learn how best to defeat fat lying deep in the belly. The study is published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

“Visceral fat can affect local organs or the entire body system. Systemically it can affect your heart and liver, as well as abdominal organs,” said senior author and cardiologist Dr. Ian J. Neeland, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine. “When studies use weight or body mass index as a metric, we don’t know if the interventions are reducing fat everywhere in the body, or just near the surface.”

To find out, the researchers evaluated changes in visceral fat in 3,602 participants over a 6-month period measured by a CT or MRI exam. Both exercise and medicines resulted in less visceral fat, but the reductions were more significant per pound of body weight lost with exercise.

“The location and type of fat is important. If you just measure weight or BMI, you can underestimate the benefit to your health of losing weight,” said Dr. Neeland, a Dedman Family Scholar in Clinical Care. “Exercise can actually melt visceral fat.”

Participants in exercise trials were 65 percent female, with a mean age of 54 and mean BMI at enrollment of 31. Exercise regimens were monitored, not self-reported. The majority of exercise trials were performed in the U.S. and Canada, while pharmacologic trials included the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Japan, and four multinational cohorts.

The medications used by study participants were FDA approved or in the FDA approval pipeline.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity affects nearly 40 percent of adult Americans. Dr. Neeland said researchers previously thought of fat as inert storage, but over the years this view evolved and fat is now seen as an active organ. “Some people who are obese get heart disease, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome — and others don’t,” Dr. Neeland said. “Our study suggests that a combination of approaches can help lower visceral fat and potentially prevent these diseases.”

Other UT Southwestern researchers who contributed to this work include Dr. Shreya Rao, cardiology fellow; Dr. Ambarish Pandey, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine; Dr. Bryan Park, internal medicine resident; Helen Mayo, Faculty Associate; Dr. Dharam Kumbhani, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine; and Dr. James A. de Lemos, Professor of Internal Medicine. Dr. de Lemos holds the Sweetheart Ball-Kern Wildenthal, M.D., Ph.D., Distinguished Chair in Cardiology.

Story Source:

Materials provided by UT Southwestern Medical Center. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Decrease Stress By Using Your Breath

During moments of stress, your thoughts may be drawn toward past regrets and worries about the future. Thankfully, you possess a readily accessible and free tool that can be used to manage stress—your breath.

Breath practices are a great way to become more in touch with your mind, body, and spirit. Deep, conscious breathing (yogic breathing) can be used as an anchor to stay in the present moment. Your conscious breath can also be used to feel the energy of your emotions, especially the uncomfortable ones that you may try to escape.

During stressful moments, conscious breathing allows you to shift and release negative energy instead of storing it in your body. This is important, because stored-up energy often manifests as muscle tension and other physical ailments.

Breath work has other benefits, too. It can increase alertness and oxygen flow and allow your body to release toxins more readily. Although breathing is something your body naturally does, it’s also a skill that can be sharpened.

Types of breath

The two basic types of breath are:

  • Chest breathing, which uses secondary muscles in your upper chest. Chest breathing is designed to be used in situations of great exertion, such as a sprint or race. During stressful situations, you may inadvertently resort to chest breathing. This can lead to tight shoulder and neck muscles and sometimes even headaches. Chronic stress can magnify these symptoms.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing, which comes from the body’s dominant breathing muscle—the diaphragm. This type of breathing is more effective and efficient. It can lead to feelings of relaxation instead of tightness.

Diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to reduce stress. To get started, try the exercise below alone or with a partner:

  • Get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your body and breath.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen to fill with air, gently expanding out. Exhale by relaxing and releasing all of the air through your nose.
  • Place one hand on your abdomen, right below your navel, and the other hand on your upper chest. Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your nose. Feel the coolness of the air as it enters in and the warmth as it flows out.
  • As you breathe in and out through your nose, focus on shifting your breath so that you can feel the rise and fall of your breathing in your abdomen more than in your chest. In other words, make the hand that rests on your abdomen move more than the hand on your chest. Take a deep breath in through your nose, sending it through the back of your throat and down to your belly. Let your abdomen slowly deflate as you exhale through your nose.
  • Take three more slow, deep breaths with conscious focus on the rise and fall of your abdomen. Continue to breathe fully and deeply, allowing and trusting the body as the breath slows and becomes more relaxed.

The benefits of deep breathing extend beyond in-the-moment stress relief. Many studies have found that deep, yogic breathing helps balance the autonomic nervous system, which regulates involuntary bodily functions, such as temperature control and bladder function. This may help ease symptoms of stress-related disorders and mental health conditions such as anxiety, general stress, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Finally, reflect on this passage by Donna Farhi from The Breathing Book: Good Health and Vitality Through Essential Breath Work to help you understand the importance of your own breath: “Breathing is one of the simplest things in the world. We breathe in, we breathe out. When we breathe with real freedom, we neither grasp for nor hold on to the breath. … The process of breathing is the most accurate metaphor we have for the way that we personally approach life, how we live our lives and how we react to the inevitable changes that life brings us.”

Updated: 2017-03-22

Publication Date: 2016-12-29