(Photo courtesy of David Kirsch)
Excerpted from David Kirsch’s Ultimate Family Wellness.
I had always wanted to be a father, but having devoted my entire adult life to my career, I saw little time or opportunity to realize that dream. When the right time came, I did what I always do when I have a goal in mind: I set out with steely-eyed determination on my path.
That process started in 2008, and on August 25, 2009, Emilia and Francesca were born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with my mother at my side in the delivery room. My gestational carrier, Michelle, delivered my two angels. Emilia weighed seven pounds, two ounces, Francesca, six pounds, eight ounces. Michelle remains a part of our lives today. I’ll never forget the feeling of holding my daughters for the first time. My guardian angels — the people no longer here with me, but I know, spiritually, are omnipresent — helped me realize my greatest dream. I held new life in my arms.
Their birth strengthened and enriched my life and gave me new purpose. Being a loving, single father brings me more joy and happiness than I ever before realized. And lessons I have learned as a single parent have helped me evolve as a fitness and wellness professional, too. Healthy living and healthy eating are not just “hashtag” phrases; they are a regular part of my life and my daughters’ lives.
(Photo courtesy of David Kirsch)
In the twenty-five years that I have been part of the fitness industry, I have watched many trends come and go. I realized that the myriad resources out there addressing weight loss, body transformation, and diets from fasting to juicing put us on information overload. It is very confusing. What I offer is a single voice, from a single parent, to give you a simple, easy-to-follow wellness guide for you and your family.
These rules will help you learn how to live in the moment, be accountable, avoid — or at least deal with — stressful situations, believe in yourself, and incorporate healthy living, eating, and exercise into your daily routine. I cannot stress enough the importance of incorporating movement and exercise and making healthy food choices. Make these as much a daily ritual as washing your face and brushing your teeth. When looked at that way, healthy living — through eating and exercise — is hard to live without.
RULE 1: Live in the moment.
We all know people stuck in the past or planning for the future. I’ll often sit with friends and clients, stalled in their wellness programs, mired in the past. To live a healthy, balanced, productive life, you need to live in the present and say to yourself, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.” The saying isn’t “Tomorrow is the first day…” I like to look at the past as a series of teaching moments that guide us to where we are and should be in our lives. Carrying the past around like a ball and chain serves no one, least of all, you. While living in the future, “I’m going to start eating better and exercising tomorrow,” opens up that procrastination box. There are so many tomorrows and only one today. Seize the moment now — be all that you can be this very moment.
As I’ve often heard and said, there is no better time than now. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, so, as the proverb says, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
RULE 2: Be accountable.
It seems like a simple concept yet it often eludes us. How many times do we say to ourselves, “If only he didn’t stress me out so much, I wouldn’t have eaten the pint of ice cream,” or, “I would’ve worked out, but the kids had a rough night and kept me up.” Look, I’ve been there. As a single father of five-year-old girls, I have had my share of sleepless, restless nights, stressful, shortened workdays, and too little time for a proper workout.
As an entrepreneur and small business owner, I often get pulled in so many directions that finding “me time” seems an impossible task. I don’t always have the answer, nor do I always do the right thing, but I refuse to be a passive victim. I own and try to learn from my mistakes.
As parents, we raise our children to be accountable, tell the truth, know right from wrong, and when necessary, have the courage and strength to apologize. As a parent, I like to lead by example and hold myself up to an even stricter standard. There have definitely been times when I’ve said to Emilia and Francesca, “Daddy was wrong for saying or doing _________, and he’s sorry.” You’ll find that accountability is ultimately empowering as it will give you a higher sense of self, which will help enable you to stay the course on your health and wellness program.
(Photo courtesy of David Kirsch)
RULE 3: Believe in yourself.
“Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” —Christian D. Larson
I am raising Emilia and Francesca with these invaluable tenets. I take great pride and pleasure in listening to my daughters speak Mandarin to each other, ski, play tennis, chess, and piano, and handle difficult situations with grace, poise, and confidence. They are far from perfect, but they do their best, and in so doing, embrace the power of possibility. We can accomplish anything we set our minds and hearts to.
I try to instill that same level of confidence in my clients in our initial consultations and throughout our work together. Successfully completing this program will instill a renewed self-confidence and belief in your abilities.
RULE 4: Don’t let stress sabotage wellness goals.
Stress has been the undoing of many diets and exercise plans. In the name of transparency, I must say, that being a single father of twin girls, though immensely rewarding, can be incredibly stressful at times. I’d like to share with you some of my stress-busting tips:
The power of five deep breaths will help diffuse even the most stressful moments. Trust me, I have those days when the stars are not aligned anywhere in my life. It took me a while to learn how to deal with really stressful situations and realizing the power of breathing—allowing that moment to collect yourself—helps immeasurably. I found a quote from a Chinese adage that I really love and want to share with you: “If you know the art of breathing you have the strength, wisdom, and courage of ten tigers.”
Find that happy place. When something is stressful, try to remove yourself mentally and physically. Whether it’s the tender moment you had with your partner, child, or friend, a special place you visited and loved, or something extraordinary you did, call upon those moments when you need a mental or spiritual lift.
There have been times, too numerous to recall, when a simple set of pushups helped me reconnect to my inner self, calm, and ground me. I learned this from my father, as he would often descend to his “inner sanctum,” his makeshift gym in my childhood home, at the end of a long workday or after a stressful moment in the house. Well, the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.
Exercise has been the prescription for most that ails me. It has de-stressed me, healed me, and empowered me. Remember, pushups aren’t for everyone. Don’t underestimate the power of walking and moving your body. I watch the effect it has on Emilia and Francesca when, after a long day at school, they head (rather sprint) to gymnastics or soccer. We can all learn from our children; running around and “letting off steam” is good and healthy.
RULE 5: Connect mind and body.
The final rule to live by applies to the exercise we do and the foods we eat. Being mindful of how and what you eat and whether and what you do for exercise will help guide and enlighten you on the path to total wellness. What goes on inside your head is just as important as the food you eat and the exercises you complete. To maintain the results you get with this or any program, you must make a deep internal change that will flip your motivation switch, helping you stay on your wellness program for the rest of your life. That change will involve, among other things, sound thinking.
For example, do your emotions affect your eating? Do you eat when you are angry, sad, frustrated, or stressed? Do you get so stressed out at work that you have no energy to exercise afterwards? Are you sometimes so depressed that you can’t motivate yourself to get off the couch? If you don’t address the reason you eat the way you do or the way you live your life, you won’t be able to maintain your results.
Read more in David’s latest book, David Kirsch’s Ultimate Family Wellness.