Stress linked to teenage obesity

With Malta ranking among the countries with the highest incidence of teenage obesity, a Maltese nutritionist has set out to give them the skills to avoid trying to eat their way out of stress.

Nearly 70 per cent of Maltese adolescents could be classified as high emotional eaters, according to a PhD study carried out by registered nutritionist and occupational therapist Daniela Cassola.

The study, which was done at the University of Plymouth, looked into the relationship between stress, coping and eating behaviours in Maltese adolescents.

Emotional eating is eating in response to, or to cope with, emotions such as stress or anxiety and may lead to weight gain and obesity, said Mrs Cassola, 31.

“There is already a very high prevalence of overweight and obesity in Maltese adolescents, with more than one fourth of Maltese teens being overweight or obese,” she pointed out.

If nothing is done to help reduce emotional eating in teens, this could worsen the already bad obesity problem, she said.

As part of her PhD study, Mrs Cassola has created an online programme for Maltese teenagers that gives them advice on how to manage their stress levels and emotional eating by learning coping skills.

Called Aces – Adolescents Coping with Emotional Eating and Stress – the five-week programme caters for those aged between 14 and 16.

It includes topics such as problem-solving, seeking social support, goal-setting and time management, dealt with in an ­interactive manner.

Mrs Cassola invited parents to contact her by emailing [email protected] with any further questions they might have concerning the study and to learn how their children can take part in the programme.


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