Tony Seibel, my father, was born in the United States to immigrant parents who came here for a better life. Dad became an All State football player for his high school and played football for the University of Texas. He served in the Pacific as a Marine during World War II and afterwards became a successful merchant in Texas City, Texas, the small town I grew up in. Although his sister Zidella became one of the first female graduates from the University of Texas Medical Branch, it was from my father that I learned some essential health tips that impact my life even today. As Father’s Day approaches, it seems a good time to share them with you.
Exercise every day. Dad walked every day. He would round up people to go with him and walk down the Texas City Dike, a two-mile road that projected into Galveston Bay. Sometimes he walked along trails that the city provided or if the weather was bad, he’d just walk though the house round and round until he got his exercise in. Before he walked he had a simple series of exercises to stretch his muscles — touch your toes, holding arms out to the side and move them in tiny circles, sit ups. No equipment required. Just make the time, count the number you want to do and do it as part of every day for about 20-30 minutes for all of your life.
Eat to live, not live to eat. Dad ate basic, whole foods. Cream of wheat or oatmeal or a soft-boiled egg for breakfast with a glass of milk; a sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes or a bowl of soup for lunch; and baked chicken or fish or occasionally a steak along with a salad and a small dessert for dinner. No fancy and caloric sauces. No second portions.
Get enough sleep. Long before we knew that too little sleep led to an increase in diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, Dad made sure to get his 7-8 hours in every night. He worked hard and knew that if he was rested, he felt better.
Wash your hands. If you look at the directions for hand washing from the CDC, you’ll find that hand washing with soap and running water is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid illness. Afterwards, Dad would use the paper towel to turn off the handles of the faucets and to open the doors before throwing the toweling away — just like the CDC recommends. He followed their other recommendations on hand washing as well. And he was doing this before the CDC was founded in 1942.
Don’t smoke. For several years Dad smoked one cigarette a day when he came home from work. It was a way he relaxed for a few minutes. In 1964 when the Attorney General announced that smoking was linked to cancer, Dad threw away his cigarettes and never picked up another one. As he put it, “If those things can cause cancer, why would I smoke them?”
Incorporate spirituality and socialization into every day. In his book Thrive, Dan Buettner explores the world’s happiest people and finds that among other things, the happiest people have a sense of spirituality and socialize up to 7 hours daily. Dad read from his prayer book every day when he woke up and loved to spend afternoons and weekends with family and friends in the pursuit of simple pleasures — going to the beach, fishing, going out to dinner with friends, and visiting people in hospitals and similar places and spending time just making them feel good. Buettner also points out that only about 10 percent of our longevity is determined by our genes; the other 90 percent is determined by our lifestyle.
Sing whenever the feeling grabs you. My life was filled with music; Dad saw to that. He sang at just about every opportunity he had, including singing wedding songs in his store to couples he sold wedding rings to. He would sing in any building where the acoustics were good and belt out Fly Me To The Moon on escalators in large hotels as he ascended to the top. Many studies have shown that singing lowers blood pressure, boosts the immune system, improves breathing, reduces perceived pain, promotes learning in children, forges comforting memories and reduces stress. Music’s many benefits are an important part of why I created HealthRock which combines music and medicine to make learning to stay well fun and easy to remember. It’s also the basis of why we create soothing instrumental music to help people relax and sleep. I just received word that HealthRock’s Sleep Tight CD won CD of the Year from Creative Child.
Dad had a great impact on me and as a result, on the thousands of patients I’ve treated over the years. He taught me how important it is to develop healthy habits that are part of every day. Incorporating these simple habits provides small differences that make a large impact on us over a lifetime. It’s how we influence the 90 percent of our lives that is determined by lifestyle and allows us to live happier, healthier, more vibrant lives.
Dad is no longer with us. I wrote this song for Father’s Day in honor of him. I think many of you will relate to it. Enjoy!
If you have stories or comments about your dad, please leave a comment below.