July 15, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Ask the Therapist

Irene Rubaum-Keller

Irene Rubaum-Keller is a licensed psychotherapist who has practiced on
the Westside for over 20 years. She specializes in treating people with
eating/weight/body image issues as well as motherless daughters. In
addition to her private practice, Irene has been on staff at UCLA’s
Risk Factor Obesity clinic for the past 15 years where she works with
some of the most esteemed leaders in the field of obesity research and
treatment. She has published numerous articles in professional journals
and for the popular media and currently writes a weekly weight loss
blog for The Huffington Post. Her television appearances as an expert
guest include:
World News Tonight, Penn and Teller’s Showtime Original
Series,
9 on the Town, UPN, KTLA and NBC news.

Dear Irene,
I have a 13-year-old daughter who is at a healthy weight but feels fat all the time. She is always comparing herself to others and coming up short. This is particularly bad at her middle school where the girls compete for being thinnest and wearing the cutest designer jeans. She does not have an eating disorder but several of her friends do. One of them has been hospitalized with anorexia and recently got down to 83 pounds. How can I make sure my daughter is saved from developing a real problem with food and with her body?
Desperate Westside Mom

Dear Westside Mom,
First of all, you are not alone. This issue touches all of us in some way or another. Young girls are being sold airbrushed images of what is beautiful and are expected to look like them. When they don’t – and no one does – they feel badly about themselves. At 13, your daughter is seeking validation from her peer group. That is entirely healthy and normal. If she is hanging out with girls who obsess about their physical appearance, she is likely to copy them. However, and here’s the good news, this is a phase she will pass through. The best thing you can do is to be a great role model for her and talk to her. Keep talking about all these issues and teach her what you believe. She will ultimately copy you vs. her current friends. Make sure you have a healthy self-image, that you don’t talk negatively about your size or your weight, and that she has the role model of a healthy and happy Mom. Good luck.

Dear Irene,
This is a really weird question, but how should one act when coming face to face with a celebrity? Here on the Westside, I see someone famous almost everyday. I am a big fan of some and would really like to let them know how much their work has meant to me. But I never say anything, as I don’t want to invade their private space. I see them at the market, at Starbucks, at the Mart… Should I say something? If so, how should I go about it? Thanks.
Star Struck in the City

Dear Star Struck,
You don’t have this problem in Iowa so much, but here and in NYC, things are different. I was recently at a local Starbucks when in walked Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw. There was a long line and they were waiting. Not one person said anything to them. On the other end, I saw Howie Mandel last weekend at the Malibu Country Mart and he was basically holding court.
So, should you say something or not?

It really depends on the situation and what it is you want to say. If they are eating a meal in a restaurant, don’t bother them. If they are waiting in line at Starbucks and you approach with respect and want to tell them how much you love their work, go for it. Most celebrities enjoy the attention as long as it’s respectful and non-intrusive. Think of it this way: If you are an attorney, waiting in line, kind of bored, and some stranger comes up and says, “You’re John Sutcliff, the great attorney, right? Oh my God, I’m so thrilled to meet you. I loved you in your last trial and the trial you did three years ago, still brings me to tears when I watch it. Thank you for being such a great attorney.†That would have to make your day, right?

So go forth into our celebrity-filled land, be gracious, be respectful, don’t intrude and go make someone’s day.

Dear Irene,
My friends have been urging me to color my hair and get Botox. I don’t do either and would frankly rather not be a slave to either one. Both require regular maintenance to look good and that means time and money. Isn’t it OK to just age naturally? Weren’t we the generation who didn’t even shave our legs or wear make-up? Now we are peeling, waxing, injecting lifting and sculpting. I’d like to age naturally but the pressure not to is overwhelming. Any suggestions? Thank you.
Natural Beauty

Dear Natural Beauty,
I know what you mean. I began writing a book about the process of weight loss when a friend from NYC said, “It must be so much worse in Los Angeles, the pressure to be thin.†Actually what I found is that there is more pressure to have plastic surgery here than anywhere else. Of course there is pressure to be thin but with everyone walking around with huge lips, line-free skin and hair extensions; it’s hard to just be natural. Remember when we thought the botoxed, face-lifted, dyed-hair, huge-boobed and skinny everywhere else look was weird? Now we are beginning to accept that as normal and the gray hair and crow’s feet are odd.

My advice is to stay strong and natural. Think Sophia Loren, Julie Christie, Brigitte Bardot and Diane Keaton. Great examples of beautiful older women without all the surgery. The deeper issue is self-esteem and self-love. If you like the way you look, if you’d rather spend your precious time doing anything but sitting in the hair salon or at the doctor’s office, then that’s exactly what you should do. If botoxing, lifting, sculpting and plumping make your friends happy, then good for them. Peer pressure doesn’t end when we graduate high school, but it should.

Dear Irene,
Help!!! We have lived on the Westside for a long time and love it here. After the writers’ strike and several other financial hits, we are struggling even just to pay the mortgage. We have not told our friends any of this and they continue to do well. They are planning trips abroad for the summer, sleep away camps for the kids, while we are lucky to pay the bills. They ask, “Where are you going this summer?†Should I be honest or just make something up until our finances improve?
Poor in the Palisades

Dear Poor in the Palisades,
I’m sorry for your stress. When you have financial strain, it affects everything, every day. What to tell your friends is probably the least of your concerns when you are having trouble getting by. It might help to keep the friend-telling issue in perspective. What people think of you is less important than getting yourselves back on track.

That said, I am a big fan of honesty. Luckily for you, financial problems are present right now for our entire country. Even Ed McMahon might lose his home, so you are certainly not alone. Your friends know this. If they are good friends they will be supportive and understanding. If not, then perhaps they aren’t really good friends and isn’t it best to know that now. You find out who your true friends are when you’re down.


Good luck and I hope things improve for you soon.

Have a question for The Therapist? Send it to Letters to the Editor via www.westsidetoday.wpengine.com/contact.html and place “Ask the Therapist†in the comments section.

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