You may know David Kirsch as the celebrity trainer who whipped Victoria’s Secret supermodel and TV star Heidi Klum into runway shape just weeks after she gave birth. But you may not realize that while the local fitness expert is busy sculpting—or “Kirsching”—the bodies of some of the world’s most beautiful women, he’s also raising a pair of adorable daughters as a single father in New York City.
Kirsch always knew he wanted to be a father, but, like a lot of parents, he wanted the timing to be just right. In 2007, with his business stable and still growing by leaps and bounds—he founded David Kirsch Wellness 25 years ago—the Manhattan-based professional knew he was ready to take a big personal step: adding children to his life. In his mid-40s, single, and with the use of a surrogate, he started that family. Twin girls may not have been part of his initial plan, but the active Kirsch was more than fit to welcome Emilia and Francesca into his arms as soon as they were born.
As one of four children himself, and the only boy in the bunch, Kirsch was up for the challenge. “You were meant to have girls,” his mother reassured him.
Along with three sisters, Kirsch grew up under the influences of a “very pushy Jewish mother” and perhaps equally tough (if not more so) Eastern European grandmother. Even the family dog was female. “I got women very quickly and I knew I had this down,” Kirsch remembers.
Having waited many years before starting his family, Kirsch takes his role as a father very seriously and spends as much time with his girls as possible. “I didn’t go out for dinner for a year and a half,” he says of having babies in the house. “I bathed them, I fed them, I cooked their food. It was very important to me to be with them.”
Running a successful business and raising twins without a lot of help is no easy task—even for someone with as much stamina and energy as Kirsch. But as he indicates, he’s not willing to relinquish any of his daddy duties. “I drop them off at school. I pick them up at school. I’m not going to change that,” he insists. Naturally, he’s caught some flack from fellow fathers for his intense involvement. “They’ll say, ‘You’re making us look bad. You don’t have to be at every drop off or pick up. We’re not. You can have the nanny come.’”
As unconditionally supportive as he is of his children, Kirsch gives clients a bit of a harder edge when he determines their wellness plans. “You are not coming to me because you want me to tell you that you look gorgeous,” he says. “You are coming to me because you know there is something you want to look better… My eye looks at everything and particularly focuses on the things that don’t seem right. I know the prescription… Tied into that is diet and lifestyle.”
It’s a tough love approach, but it’s how the wellness specialist approaches his own family’s health as well. “I teach experientially, the way I live my life,” he says. His 3-and-a-half-year-old girls eat organic foods, oftentimes helping their dad whip up some of the recipes found in his three wellness books. They skip fruit juice, opting for water instead. And you won’t find cookies and cakes in Kirsch’s kitchen cabinets.
But that’s not to say the girls are deprived of kid-favorite sweets. “They know when we have a cheat, like a cookie or piece of cake, that it is a treat,” Kirsch says. “At synagogue on Friday, when they had their challah bread, they had a little grape juice, so that was like a treat for them,” he says with a nod.
Reflecting back on their first few years as a family, Kirsch laughs and says the girls were so well fed that they looked like baby Buddhas. Now as toddlers, Emilia and Francesca are on the go and giving their dad even more exercise than his day job requires. The Kirschs pack scooters on their stroller and go to the park after school to play before heading home for dinner. But, like any family, days at the playground won’t last forever. Kirsch knows that when puberty hits, the parenting rules may change for him. Having grown up with a trio of sisters, however, he’s prepared to tackle anything that his two growing daughters throw his way. As Kirsch says, “I can be very maternal, but in the end, I am their dad.”
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