Love thyself first. Part of the gratitude attitude is being kind to others and to yourself. I firmly believe that kindness begins with the person you see in the mirror. Make sure you are saying positive and uplifting things to yourself every day. Don’t just save the good stuff for others.
As a part of our “How Each of Us Can Leverage the Power of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Robert Kiltz.
Dr. Robert Kiltz is an author, motivational speaker, board-certified OB/GYN and reproductive endocrinologist, and founder and director of the CNY Fertility, one of the largest and most dynamic fertility centers in the country. Dr. Kiltz has earned recognition outside of the fertility world for pioneering the holistic health movement and the keto lifestyle. His new book, “Living Your Best Life: How to Think, Eat, and Connect Your Way to a Better Flow” releases in Spring 2021.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Dr. Kiltz! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?
As a teenager growing up in Los Angeles, I was dyslexic and had difficulty reading. Though I struggled to pass Algebra and English, I found a true passion for pottery and art after I wandered into the ceramic studio in search of another class to fill my schedule. I hadn’t taken an art class since first grade but was immediately hooked. My ceramics teacher, Mrs. Wong helped me discover that I was good with my hands, and I loved the deep meditative process of controlling my body in precise ways while throwing pots on the wheel. I still make pottery today and have a home studio. These skills have served me well as an OB/GYN & Reproductive Endocrinologist, but back then I had no idea I would become a doctor. It wasn’t even a blip on my radar until I broke my leg during my freshman year in college. This was the mid-1970s, and the family doctor who treated me was a quintessential hippy. He was friendly, warm, down to earth, and he genuinely loved helping people. Meeting this doctor was the moment when something clicked deep within me. I thought, “Hey, this looks like a really great way to live.” As a doctor, I could be an advocate in service to others, treating everyone with respect and kindness, and using emotional presence and tactile skills to truly help others. I wasn’t so great at all of the things required to get into medical school, but I was inspired!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I’m not sure I have any one story, but I have infinite stories of struggle, challenge, and failure that ultimately led me to the recognition that there is no such thing as failure or loss. Through hardship and pain, we grow. My most poignant story is related to my failure to match as an OB/GYN as a fourth-year medical student.
You decide at some point what you want to do, and I decided to be an obstetrician/gynecologist because I really loved it so much. I applied to just a few programs in Los Angeles, and in the moment that so many of my classmates were so joyous and excited about matching and their future careers, I was one of the few who was rejected. That was difficult to accept. What did I do wrong? What should I have done better? I made the difficult decision to go into internal medicine for a year in L.A. rather than travel to some strange place and start my OB/GYN career. The truth was I wasn’t even sure where I wanted to go and what I wanted at the time. But that turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me because that year of internal medicine gave me a significantly improved foundation and understanding of my abilities to care for complex acute medical problems, which ultimately made me a much better doctor as I moved on to my career as an OB/GYN and fertility specialist.
Interestingly enough, I received a call that there was an opening for a first-year OB/GYN residency in Los Angeles and after my year at Cedars-Sinai internal medicine program, I went to USC Women’s Hospital, one of the busiest OB/GYN residencies/internships in the country. As it turned out, I was there for my one year, again thrown right into the “combat OB/GYN” (as I call it) environment, which was an emergency every moment of the day, but I learned a tremendous number of skills as an obstetrician/gynecologist. A position wasn’t open for my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year, so once again I found myself on the journey of traveling from LA out to Colorado for a three-year program.
I enjoyed it tremendously. My daughter was born there, and I met some really amazing people. I decided I wanted to do general OB/GYN, but I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go. I ended up back in Northern California at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento where I had done my medical school training. Loved the people, loved the place, and was really excited about it. It was there that I met Dr. Kurt Klooster who was my colleague in OB/GYN at Rosefield Kaiser and it was then that I learned about reproductive medicine and infertility because he was doing a tremendous amount of fertility care and I didn’t know much about it. It was there that I gained my interest and knowledge. The universe works in amazing ways. Things happen when you don’t expect them, and this one happened to me.
I got a cold call from a doctor in LA who was asking me if I might be interested in a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility. I did not apply for this position and wasn’t even thinking about it at the time, but Dr. Bosu from Colorado happened to move to Los Angeles and started working at a new REI program at Harbor UCLA and remembered me. I thought, “Wow! It’s serendipity!” Amazing how one failure leads to a success. Or the practice in one area suddenly drives you to another. In these moments of loss and failure, you’re given the opportunity to see the possibilities which leads you to the success of where you are today, but you didn’t see where things were headed at the time.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“What You Put into Your Mind and Your Mouth Matters Most.”
This is something I say and share every day and something I live. Many people worry about what they put into their bodies only as it relates to the foods they eat or sometimes the medications they take. They don’t consider what they’re watching, listening to, and reading. But everything we expose ourselves to has an impact. Are you focused on gossip, listening to depressing news all the time, or a friend who’s negative? Or are you reading uplifting, positive books about successful people achieving their dreams? Thoughts can be just as toxic as food. We can choose what we put into our minds as easily as we choose what we eat for dinner. When we don’t choose wisely, we suffer the consequences. I’ve certainly experienced this.
There was a period in my life when I felt very unfulfilled. I was unhappy in my career and in my relationships. There was something missing in my life. I was seeking satisfaction and happiness in all the wrong places. I constantly felt something missing that I wasn’t able to put my finger on. It was then that I started a practice that has changed my life: I began writing down my daily intention every morning.
I use my own words to express the beauty I feel inside and around me each day. Previously, I was unaware of how I allowed the television, weather, talk radio, or other gossip to direct my life. These external influences often put me in an anxious state of mind. I was worried by all of the terrible things I saw on the news. These thoughts leaked their way into my subconscious through repeated exposure and were controlling my conscious thoughts. These negative viewpoints distorted my perception of reality and left a cloud of insecurity looming over my head.
My daily intention encourages me to take control over how I feel and how I act. Each day, my positive, intentional thoughts lay the foundation for my success. I now understand the drastic difference between an optimistic state of mind and a pessimistic one. Before I started this practice, I was still figuring out in which state my own mind belonged.
I sometimes ask my patients, “Are you a temple or an amusement park?” You decide. How you think about yourself and the choices you make every day determine what you’ll become.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
Mind is the Master by James Allen was ground-breaking for me. It really changed my perspective on thoughts and their power to control our lives. The poetry of life is that which you share, create, be it, do it, love it, enjoy it. Be afraid every day and do it anyway. That’s it. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s amazing. It’s commitment to life.
We are all working to be committed to life. It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, what you’ve done, or what your background is. Whether you’re in jail or at the top of the mountain, scaling El Capitan without a rope. What’s possible? Everything and anything. We have to re-align ourselves with our dreams and go for it. Life is short. We can’t wait for things to get better, and we can’t afford the excuses or procrastination we are all guilty of. You are the creator in thy mind. There you find the possibilities of life. We are all seeking significance, recognition, and honor, but it’s really built in your day to day of sharing, creating, and helping others.
Allen resonated with me on a personal level and professionally. My career is focused on making people’s dreams of having a family come true. Positivity and belief play a huge role. But in my personal life, I’m always striving to be creative, try new things, and push my personal boundaries.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Right now I’m working on a cookbook with Keto-Expert Maria Emmerich that focuses on eating to be fertile. Our book shares why high-fat, low-carb eating improves fertility along with delicious recipes from Maria that are recognizable and easy to make. Reducing inflammation is key, improving hormone function, and making sure you’re taking in the essential and hard-to-get minerals and nutrients to support yourself and the life you want to bring into the world. An HFLC diet does just that.
I’m thrilled to be partnering with Maria and to provide my current and future patients (and anyone interested in optimizing their health) with the critical tools and knowledge they need to make it happen. This book will teach you how to stock your pantry and refrigerator with the best ingredients for making the transition to HFLC as a lifelong food plan.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m thankful to my grandmother and my parents for providing teaching moments that have made me who I am. When I was sixteen, my grandmother helped get me my first job at a department store. Though I wasn’t doing particularly well in school, I discovered that I was an innately hard worker. I loved the long shifts that didn’t let out until eleven at night. Working at the department store turned out to be one of the most important jobs in my life because it was there that I learned the power of service. In retail, it’s called customer service. But from early on, I saw it as people service. Through the simple daily job of serving people, I realized how everyone thrives on patience, kindness, and love. And everyone deserves respect.
My father helped teach me another lesson about respect that I have never forgotten. One night when I was driving home from the department store in my grandmother’s Chevy Impala, I was pulled over by a policeman on a motorcycle. He immediately searched the car. In the glovebox, he found prescription medications that belonged to my grandmother. Assuming that I was in illegal possession of prescription drugs, the officer threw me up against a chain-link fence and handcuffed me. I was pretty terrified and confused. Eventually, he confirmed that the medications belonged to my grandmother and he let me go without giving me a ticket.
When I got home, I told my father what happened. To my surprise, my father called the police station and asked to speak with the officer directly. He asked the officer to come over and apologize to me. Amazingly, he agreed! I have a lot of respect for that officer, for his willingness to admit he made a mistake and to show me respect. From this experience, I learned how a little vulnerability and respect can be deeply healing for both the person receiving it and the person offering it. I also learned the power of having a caring advocate in your corner — someone who knows how to stand up to injustice, but also how to speak to power in a way that creates mutual respect and healing, not just antagonism and anger. These lessons in advocacy, care, and respect are part of my DNA, and they are the motivating forces behind my exploration of sometimes controversial approaches to treating infertility and to general health and wellness. I think I’m an advocate for my patients, many of whom come to see me after some not-so-great experiences at other fertility clinics.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?
For me, gratitude is appreciating this awesome and amazing life and everything that’s sent your way — the good, the bad, the challenges, and struggles. They are all here to help mold and shape us. Gratitude is the overwhelming belief that the universe is always conspiring in our favor despite outward appearances to the contrary. Gratitude is a journey, not a destination. Sometimes we all need to adjust our lens on how we see the world and our particular place in it.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
It’s so easy to keep moving through the days, weeks, and months without stopping to reflect and take stock. If the pandemic gave us anything positive, it was certainly a little more downtime with the ones we love to reflect on our blessings, and they are many! Lots of us live for that next win — i.e., when I get that new job/new house/new car/new baby or after we take this vacation, then we’ll be happy and thankful, but there’s always that next thing hanging out there. And we use others as a yardstick, which isn’t helpful. I find gratitude comes from within. Rather than focusing on “things” and outside factors, you need to look inward and start with the inner dialogues you’re having with yourself.
And people can and should feel gratitude for the little things: being alive today, a clear blue sky, a great cup of coffee, someone’s beautiful smile, the smell of spring. Gratitude is about appreciating all of the big and small parts of your life, the good and not-so-good parts as well.
This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?
Living life with the Gratitude Attitude (as I call it) has physical and psychological benefits. There have been many studies that link the practice of gratitude with an improved immune system, healthy blood pressure, reduced aches and pains, and better sleeping patterns. We know the mind-body connection is a real thing. Gratitude is one of the strongest positive emotions and is a pathway to happiness.
Some people think, “Sure, it’s easy to be gracious, when you have everything you need and aren’t struggling to pay your bills or with your health,” but the reality is that gratitude can bring you happiness, not the other way around. And there are so many examples of people who “have it all” who still struggle to find those moments of appreciation.
I love this story I heard about an elderly woman who is legally blind and moving into a nursing home because her husband recently passed away. A nursing home administrator describes her room to her. The woman responds, “I love it,” with great enthusiasm.
When the administrator tells her she hasn’t even seen the room yet, the woman replies, “That doesn’t have anything to do with it. Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”
This is a great way to look at life. I greet every morning by saying out loud, “Thank you, God, for this awesome and amazing day you have gifted me.” This perspective has made all the difference in how I see the world and how the world sees me.
Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?
Besides the fact that gratitude feels good, there’s also a decent body of research that demonstrates gratitude can improve happiness and decrease depression. Gratitude has so many benefits that are physical and mental, all of which I believe contribute to improved mental wellness. If you’re getting better rest at night, that changes how you feel and approach life the next day. Believe it or not, gratitude studies show better sleep quality, less time needed to fall asleep at night, and longer sleep time in subjects who wrote in a daily gratitude journal.
Researchers document gratitude practitioners with improved immune systems, lower blood pressure, more energy, and a greater likelihood to exercise. All of our bodily systems are interconnected, so the domino effect of so many positive changes isn’t too surprising. I’ve seen it in myself over the last decade and a half since I’ve been focused on keeping a journal and reflecting on my own gratitude several times a day.
Even little changes can have an impact. Practicing gratitude is something you can easily start today, right now! I offer some suggestions to beginners looking to begin practicing gratitude in their daily lives on my blog.
Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Love thyself first. Part of the gratitude attitude is being kind to others and to yourself. I firmly believe that kindness begins with the person you see in the mirror. Make sure you are saying positive and uplifting things to yourself every day. Don’t just save the good stuff for others.
- Give yourself permission to let go . . . of past hurts, grudges, and worries. Carrying all of that stuff around becomes a heavy burden and makes it really difficult to stay present and focused on the here and now.
- Think it, ink it. Keeping a gratitude journal or just writing down what your thinking or feeling is a wonderful daily exercise. Thoughts are meant to be written down. When you write something down, it becomes embedded in your mind and your future. Your future shall unfold in the ways you think it to be — the dream or better. Journaling can help you appreciate what you have and realize your goals.
- Don’t forget to breathe. It sounds simple, but deep breathing can be restorative and meditative. We all need to take those respites from our busy lives to recenter and refocus our thoughts. I call these mindful moments of meditation. It’s not so much about clearing your mind as it is about focusing on all feeling gratitude and focusing your mind on the things you desire in life. When you believe in the thoughts, they become reality.
- Remember, you are the Creator . . . of your thoughts, of your life, of your future. You set the boundaries in your mind, and you decide what is possible.
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
My advice for anyone feeling stressed or down is to slow it down and breathe. Focus on the beauty of the universe and the power of creativity that we’ve all been given. I suggest meditative breathing, something that I practice several times a day. Breathe in through your nose for 5 seconds, hold it for 6 seconds, and then breathe out through your mouth for 7 seconds. I say, “In through the nose, out through the smile.” Just stop what you’re doing and focus on your breathing and a positive/loving thought. You can take this mindfulness break as many times a day as you need. Give yourself permission to take this time to re-center.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
I absolutely love the book Three Magic Words by U.S. Andersen. Spoiler alert: those three magic words are “I am God”. See God within yourself and within everybody around you. See God in your parents, your coworkers, your boss, your neighbor. God is in every single thing. It’s so important to start sending love to everything because it’s all God. God is within each and every one of us.
It’s through the power of the intention that all of us are capable of all things. If you haven’t read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, you must. We are just the shepherd boys and girls on this little journey to find our treasures.
And The Secret by Rhonda Byrne is another favorite that I recommend to friends, colleagues, and patients. I’m always reading or listening to something. The learning never ends, and it’s made and continues to make me a richer person on so many levels.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Undoubtedly this would be for every person to understand that they have the power to control their health and wellness through what and how often they eat. Most people walk around thinking that their health has been predetermined by their DNA, but really only about 20% of your overall health is predicted by genetics. The remaining 80% is dictated by diet and lifestyle. So, what you’re eating greatly influences your health and things like your ability to conceive.
Processed foods and low-fat eating have been extremely detrimental to our health. With all of the medical research and advances in treatment, we should be getting healthier, but we’re not. So much of what the average person believes about healthy eating is completely wrong. As a fertility specialist, I try to share this information with my patients because it can help them be healthier and have the babies they so desperately want. But as a doctor, I just want everyone to recognize the power they have, to do the research, and learn. There were a lot of things I couldn’t and didn’t believe at first until I really dug into the research and tried it for myself. I now eat one meal a day at night and focus on a carnivorous ketogenic diet. I call it my B.E.B.B.I.S. Diet because it concentrates on bacon, eggs, butter, beef, full-fat ice cream, and salt as major food sources. This is an inflammation-reducing diet that lowers blood sugar. It helps get people pregnant, and it’s how I eat every day. I’ve gotten rid of joint pain, migraines, G.I. problems, and I feel incredible at age 64.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
You can visit the websites www.cnyfertility.com and www.doctorkiltz.com. You can also follow me on social media; @CNYFertilityCenter and @DrRobKiltz on Facebook, as well as @doctorkiltz and @cnyfertility on Instagram.