When Feasting Holds Fear


“I shut my eyes and my heart to the filling, sustaining, nourishing love of my family. In the midst of joyous celebration, I sat with an empty plate and an empty heart.”

By Abby Kelly | Twitter: @benjity

Thanksgiving was once my favorite holiday. At the crest of the holiday season, it ushered in everything warm and yummy—a season of favorites. And it was always spent in my grandparents’ home, a place where I was favored and filled with love.

But when anorexia stole my appetite, a chasm ruptured between my Granddad and me. I remember the pain in his eyes when he hugged me; how he held back, afraid to squeeze me too tight.

As a little girl, I adored my grandfather. He feasted on life, licking the last drop of sweetness from the bottom of every moment. He delighted in sharing the best of everything.

Granddad cringed at the sight of me dwindling in the clutches of an eating disorder. I turned my back on everything that he knew to be good and delicious in life. Even the rich and precious morsels of tradition, holidays and family sanctity lost their flavor.


It became difficult for me to separate despair and disappointment. Though he never said a word, I saw the sadness in Granddad’s eyes. It seemed to me that he was disgusted with my inability to “just eat.” Visits with my grandparents became tinged with fear. Granddad’s boundless appetite terrified me.

My grandfather saw feasting as an art. An art to be practiced and perfected in every area of life.  No matter how old he grew he could put away more rolls slathered with butter than anyone I’ve ever met. And he never turned down dessert. More than once Granddad plied me with his infamous chocolate malt.

For Granddad, feasting was about so much more than food. Like a gourmet meal, he could turn the most common things into a masterpiece. Every day held the promise of a holiday. Daily feasting blossomed into uncontainable gratitude.

In the depths of my heart, I hoped that my admiration and love for him would magically release me from the anorexia.

Anorexia didn’t stop with stealing my hunger for food. I partook less and less of the bounty God had given me in my family. And Granddad mourned. The grief I saw in his eyes was more crushing than even my parents’ pleadings for me to simply eat.

I didn’t just despise the Thanksgiving table. I deemed all feasting to be evil: feasting on love, companionship, tradition, smiles, open arms and family. I turned away from buttered rolls, rich stuffing and soft pumpkin pie. I shut my eyes and my heart to the filling, sustaining, nourishing love of my family. In the midst of joyous celebration, I sat with an empty plate and an empty heart.

I know Granddad missed Thanksgivings past. He wanted to again carve my favorite pumpkin pie into huge wedges and to copy my daddy’s special way of drizzling honey over a pyramid of whipped cream. He knew I had loved the warmth that spread over my tongue as soft pumpkin squished between my teeth.

But the word “stuffing” now offended me. The idea of stuffing myself, stuffing anything, seemed grotesque, indulgent and slovenly.


Granddad fell last year and broke his leg. Following necessary surgery, he never woke up.

I avoided his funeral.

Fear still had its talons in my heart and I knew that Granddad’s memory would be a cause for joyous feasting. That, added to the sorrow, overwhelmed me.

Even in the final days of his life, Granddad had busily worked his spoon around the edges of life’s ice cream bowl. He pushed all the boundaries of hearing loss and heart problems. His hugs still lifted me slightly off the floor. And I wish I’d had the insight then to thank him for showing me how to feast.

Today, I am still rediscovering my appetite. I tremble inside at the thought of my plate brimming with holiday sweetness, like a little child, curious about where the limits lie. It is scary to dig in with gusto after years of shrinking from the table. But I’m trying to remember that to feast is about more than food. Feasting is enjoying all the richness of life and then spilling it into the lives of others.


Dear SheLoves friends, I’d love to know:

  • When have you been afraid to feast, on food or life?
  • Do you allow yourself to feast without guilt?
  • What in life do you enjoy feasting on the most?


 About Abby:

I am a freelance writer, blogger and personal trainer living in Northern, VA. I’m the eldest of four, the wife of one, the owner of the world’s best dog and I drink WAY too much coffee. You can follow my blog here.







Thanksgiving image: istockphoto