Finding the right words on this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I realize that my vegetarian lifestyle isn't best well suited for this holiday but for me, it's not about the food. 

When I was growing up, we always celebrated Thanksgiving together as a family. My brother, my mom and dad and any relatives who could drive/fly to be with us. Sometimes we would go out of state and sometimes we would be at home in Lexington, KY. 

When I was in college, I really looked forward to being with my family because I didn't see them all the time like I did growing up and throughout High School. As a high school and collegiate swimmer, the holiday season was often our high volume time of the year so  my carb-rich heavy feast was very well enjoyed (and useful) for my active body especially when I looked forward to a 8,000-10,000+ yard swim session the day after Thanksgiving. 

After college, I moved to Florida for graduate school and luckily, my dad got a job in Florida as well (at the VA clinic as the chief Optometrist) so my mom and dad were no longer in Kentucky but instead, just 3.5 hours away from me.
I remember my very first Thanksgiving in my new home of FL at my parents house and it occurred on the same day as my first longest run ever. I was training for the Miami Marathon and my run was 14 miles. I had never ran that long before!  I was so incredibly sore, I could barely move to drive up to my parents home. But I was so excited to see my family as it had been a few months since I had seen them, probably the longest I had ever gone without seeing my parents at one time. My brother traveled home from UMichigan to be with us as well. It was a really lovely time to have our family together in our new home. 

After graduate school, I found myself with negative dollars in my bank account (graduate student with a new endurance triathlon and running obsession) and with a very expensive Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology. So, what's a daughter to do than to move-in with my parents. This was just 6 months before I met Karel and less than a year before my first Ironman. 

I remember celebrating Thanksgiving in 2006 with my parents and my boyfriend Karel (who as you know, is from Czech and has his entire family in Czech Republic). I was now an Ironman finisher so that was the on the conversation list over our meal and once again, I just loved being with my family and having them get to know Karel. My brother was now in Pittsburgh so it was always great to see him when he could get away from work for the holiday. 

When Karel and I moved to Jacksonville FL for his new job as the GM of the Trek Bicycle Store, the Thanksgiving holiday was always a busy time for him as it is for everyone in the retail industry. Overtime, I became a RD and had a PRN position as a clinical RD so I didn't mind relieving the other RDs at Baptist Medical Center Beaches around the holiday as I knew Karel had to work the day after Thanksgiving anyway.  It was only 1-2 times in the past 6 years that I can remember not spending Thanksgiving with my family and that is probably the only time I have never spent Thanksgiving with my family. 

Last year was a very special Thanksgiving. I was able to spend Thanksgiving with my dad. And unlike the last 31 years with my mom and dad, that Thanksgiving was not the easiest of holidays to celebrate.
My dad was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic cancer to his spine in June 2014, had major spinal surgery a few weeks later and was not given a good diagnosis  if he would ever walk again nor the survival rate of someone who is otherwise perfectly healthy and fit with this type of aggressive cancer. 
After many visits to my parents home (3.5 hours from Jacksonville) in June and July and then before and after we raced in IM Lake Placid, I knew that this Thanksgiving may be our last Thanksgiving together as a family. I didn't want to convenience myself that it would be true but I wanted to make sure I didn't take this Thanksgiving for granted. 

Funny how things work out because in October, there were some changes at the Trek Store and Karel and I discussed our options and decided it would be a great time to grow Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition.  This was an overwhelming time for us with so many changes but like always, I reached out to my dad who always gave the best advice and when we told him what we were considering, he could not have been more supportive. 
The best thing about the recent change with Karel leaving the Trek Store was that it allowed us to have more time visiting my family. The hospital completely understood my situation so rather than spending just a few days with my family, we were able to spend a full week (and Campy too) making memories with my dad. 

My dad worked hard and learned to walk again. After 3 months with a spine brace, wound vac and walker (and assistance with all daily activities) and loads of medications, radiation, chemo.....my dad made it down the aisle for my brothers wedding in Pittsburgh in the end of September and continued improving his strength to be able to move around the house by Thanksgiving with his walker, by himself. He prepared the Turkey, made me my  out-of-the-bird stuffing like always and even made sure to save some leftovers for Campy. With all that had been going on my dad lost a lot of weight and had little appetite but Thanksgiving seemed to turn things around as his appetite came back just in time for a few of his favorite eats. 

I am two days away from my favorite holiday to be with my family and I find myself holding back the tears because it will be without my dad. I'm so happy that my mom is now a Greenville resident and my aunt, uncle and cousin will be joining us for Thanksgiving. 

It was exactly 6 months ago today when I had my last chat with my dad (on the phone) when he was in Moffitt hospital. I remember the day so clearly. I remember talking to my dad a few times that weekend which was rather unusual since I usually talk to him once a day. But I just had so much to tell him as it was my first time exploring Greenville for training and I couldn't wait to tell him that I climbed Ceaser's Head with Karel and went for a lake swim in Lake Jocassee with our friends and told him about all the beautiful places in Greenville that I couldn't wait for him to see when him and my mom would move to Greenville (they had their house on the market). I knew my dad was not feeling good but he remained his normal cheery self and wanted to hear more from me than to talk about himself. What happened next was not expected.  

The next time I would see my dad would be a day later on life support. Two days later, my life changed forever.

On May 28th, I lost my dad to his 10-month fight with Cancer. Since that time, I have had to experience life without him for the past 6 months. No longer is my dad around for me to talk to about life, training, questions and to catch up. 

I look back at all the years we had together (3 days short of 32 years together) and all the Thanksgiving's that we spent together as a family. 

Thanksgiving is a holiday that you will likely find me yumming a bit more than normal but for me, the holiday is not about the food. 

As Julia Child said "People who love to eat are always the best people."
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to surround yourself with friends and family and to reflect. It's an opportunity to yum over a meal that was created on traditions, stories and laughs. It's an opportunity to slow down and give to those who are less fortunate and to be grateful for your gifts. It's an opportunity to be kind and loving to those who are most important in your life but also to those who you need a smile from you. 

I wanted to share my love of this holiday with you because it is one of my favorite times to be around family. Here are a few things that I would love for you not to say on your Thanksgiving day to ensure that you get the most out of this special holiday. Regardless if you are with friends, family or alone, remember to give thanks to your awesome body. 

Instead of saying "I shouldn't be eating this"
Say "I rarely eat this. I am so excited for this occasional opportunity to indulge responsibly."

Instead of saying "I hate that food!"
Say "I haven't yet learned to appreciate it yet."

Instead of saying "That food is off-limit."
Say "The reason why I do not eat that food is because ______ but that doesn't mean that you can not enjoy it. There is no such thing as bad foods."

Instead of saying "I hate cooking."
Say "This is a great opportunity for me to be challenged in the kitchen and to be inspired by new recipes and meals."

Instead of saying "I'm worried I'll eat too much."
Say "Rather than having second portions, I am going to make a plate of food to give to someone in need of food."

Instead of saying "I'm going to start my diet tomorrow."
Say "I realize that I ate a bit more than normal but a quick fix will not make yesterday's occasional feast go away. I promise myself that I will not go into the meal starving and will eat controlled portions so I can enjoy a little of everything without food guilt."

Instead of saying "I have no idea how I will burn off all these calories!"
Say "I am going to aim to move my body a bit more than normal next week. Nothing extreme but I will walk more, take the stairs and enjoy all of my planned workouts."

Instead of saying "I am so bad around _______ food/drink."
Say "I recognize that I am still working on my relationship with food. I am learning how to enjoy a more varied diet or I am learning how to eat more mindfully. I am not going to feel anxious about the foods that I am presented but instead, take positive action by allowing myself to make Thanksgiving not just about the food. I am going to be good with my food choices so that this holiday makes me a better me."

Instead of saying "I ate too much"
Say "I am grateful for all of this food. Now I will help someone else in need by volunteering my time or donating money to someone who needs it."

Instead of saying "I feel so fat!"
Say "I know that fat is not a feeling. Sometimes I can feel overwhelmed with so much food around me and I often find myself uncomfortable in my own skin. But I need to change that feeling because this same body has allowed me to ________ (ex. cross a finish line, care for your children, get a bonus/promotion at work, etc.). Not eating, dietiting or overexercising will not make everything perfect. I love and accept myself and I take full responsibility of what I put into my body and I want to feel good with all of my food choices."

Instead of saying "I don't want to go back to work on Monday."
Say "I feel so lucky that I am healthy and well and I can make the most out of every day of my life. I am excited to start another week and to continue to work hard for my goals in life and to make memories with my friends and family. I am lucky I have a great job that allows me to put yummy food in my body an also to pay for my active lifestyle."

Instead of saying "I hate my body."
Say "Thank you body for giving me another year of life. I look forward to tomorrow with you."