The Gift That Keeps On Giving

By Keira Oseroff, LCSW

As a young social worker, newly licensed and fresh out of graduate school, I found myself working as a case manager on a women's unit, specializing in the treatment of eating disorders at a local psychiatric hospital. I say I found myself there, but truth be told, I didn't find myself there by accident. Acutely aware of my own history of food and body image issues, I understood the great responsibility I had to model emotional and physical health. And, amazingly, I remained calm about food and my body, even while pregnant.

Twenty-seven years old and half way through my pregnancy, I learned I was having a daughter.  The calm I had experienced vanished into thin air! Holy s#*t! What if she struggles with food and weight and body image? What if she's too thin? What if she grows up a fat kid like me? What if she has an eating disorder? How will I teach her to love and accept her body, accept herself and develop a healthy relationship with food? Those questions swirled around and around inside my mind.

My questions were answered 6 weeks into my maternity leave when a colleague from the unit came to visit me. Part of her baby gift to me was a copy of “Child of Mine,” a book written by Ellyn Satter focused on childhood feeding dynamics. Receiving that gift changed the trajectory of my life and my career! Devouring the information, I had a road map for how to feed my daughter. It made so much sense! And I would practice, and practice and practice. The journey included infinite opportunities to confront my own values and beliefs about food and about my children's capacity to learn and grow normally. Practicing Satter's Division of Responsibility (sDOR) also creates countless opportunities to develop trust, healthy boundaries and emotional regulation skills (for adults and kids). I continued to learn, studying all of Satter's books and attending her intensive trainings.

Satter's feeding dynamics model, anchored by the Division of Responsibility (sDOR), is profoundly simple and rich in complexity at the same time. The concept of the feeding relationship as a metaphor for parenting shaped my professional clinical practice with people healing from disordered eating, and on their own mission to guide their families toward fulfilling and healthier relationships with food - and with one another. There is no doubt in my mind that it's a powerful weapon to be used in our arsenal for the prevention of eating disorders and childhood obesity.

The years that have followed have resulted in hundreds of confident, competent, joyful eaters... two of which are now 10 and 13 years old. Now, as a new faculty member of The Ellyn Satter Institute (ESI), I have the privilege to participate in sharing Satter's growing body of work, strongly supported by the research, in an even broader way! 

Keira Oseroff is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, specializing in the treatment of those struggling with eating disorders, childhood feeding issues and dual diagnosis. She received her Bachelor’s degree from The George Washington University and her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Georgia. Since 1999, Keira has worked in a variety of clinical settings including residential treatment and private practice, working with individuals, couples, families and groups. She is passionate about the important distinction between treating people, not disorders.