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‘I want to help hundreds of thousands’: Former BYU star Kyle Collinsworth on quest to help people get healthy through simple steps — especially now during the pandemic

Now, as a guard for the Salt Lake City Stars of the NBA G League, the lifestyle change he maintains today has also grown into an altruistic cottage industry. 

Kyle Collinsworth and his wife, Shea Collinsworth, go for a walk with their dog, Coco, on the mountain near their home in Provo on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
Kyle Collinsworth and his wife, Shea Collinsworth, go for a walk with their dog, Coco, on the mountain near their home in Provo on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

PROVO — When he was a sophomore at BYU, Kyle Collinsworth’s passing and rebounding skills, as well as his overall court awareness, made him one of the top college basketball players in the country.

But in terms of his diet, he was a typical college student. Eating healthy wasn’t a big priority.

“I’d eat Taco Bell at 1 in the morning,” he recalled. “I ate terrible — candy and sugar all the time.”

But that all changed at the end of his sophomore season.

Six years ago, in the second half of the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game against Gonzaga, the Cougar star landed awkwardly on his right leg and remained on the floor at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas for several minutes, writhing in pain before he was helped to the locker room.

The Cougars ended up losing to the Zags and when the team returned to Provo, an MRI revealed that Collinsworth had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and he was unable to compete in the NCAA Tournament the following week. A long and grueling rehab period awaited.

Park City surgeon Vernon Cooley performed the surgery on Collinsworth’s knee. The prognosis was for Collinsworth to return in 10 months. But the Provo native wanted to return sooner. Cooley advised Collinsworth that if he improved his nutrition, it could help him possibly return in six months and be ready for the first game the following November.

Collinsworth, who had returned from a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia less than a year before the injury, took that counsel to heart.

“I started drinking green smoothies,” he said, “and after a few weeks of having a smoothie every day, my desire to have fast food just went away.”

The timing and severity of the injury cast doubt on whether Collinsworth would be able to return that soon, let alone play at a high level as a junior.

Not only was Collinsworth on the floor in the season opener against Long Beach State that November, but he also ended up recording the program’s first triple-double in 26 years a month later. He went on to become the NCAA’s triple-double king, compiling 12 career triple-doubles, an NCAA record, over his final two seasons.

Collinsworth’s ability to return seemingly seamlessly from ACL surgery was, at first, somewhat stunning to observers. He credits many factors to his recovery, including healthy eating.

“That was a huge reason why I was able to come back so fast and recover so quickly. From that whole process, I learned a lot of strategies that helped with eating healthy,” he said. “I feel better and I’ve seen success with it — not just with my body and basketball but with my life as a whole.”

Now, as a guard for the Salt Lake City Stars of the NBA G League, that lifestyle change that he maintains today has also grown into an altruistic cottage industry.

While he has fully embraced the power of nutrition and positive health habits, he wants to help others become the best version of themselves by offering motivation and challenges for people to get healthy via Twitter, newsletters and e-books.

Two of his e-books are titled, “Born to be Strong: A Guide to Reclaiming Your Natural Strong Body” and “The Power of Food: Body, Mind, and Spirit.” They feature recipes, video tutorials and food charts. To receive his newsletter and learn more, follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigrussia5.

What Collinsworth shares isn’t a diet. It’s a lifestyle. And it’s about simplicity combined with consistency.

“It’s been six-plus years now and I keep learning more and more,” he said. “I’ve really been blessed with the power of eating healthy and exercise on my body, mind and spirit. I’ve been on both sides, so I get it.”

The information he shares, gleaned from a massive amount of reading, as well as empirical research, is free.

At BYU, Collinsworth ranks No. 13 all-time in scoring, No. 2 in rebounding, and No. 1 in assists. But this might be his most important assist.

“I always comment with people and answer questions (on Twitter). All the monthly guides are free. I’m just trying to help people reach their potential,” he said. “That’s one area I’m passionate about — healthy eating and exercise. I want to take what I’ve learned and help as many people as I can to get healthy. Thousands have signed up for my newsletter. I don’t know the exact number. But I want to help hundreds of thousands.”

Among those that he has helped include former NBA superstar Dirk Nowitzki, who was Collinsworth’s teammate when he played with the Dallas Mavericks. Nowitzki was dealing with a foot injury and Collinsworth “helped him with some meal stuff.” He’s also helped Doug McDermott of the Indiana Pacers.

But Collinsworth is just as passionate about helping those who aren’t professional athletes — average people that may struggle with maintaining a healthy weight or want to feel better about themselves.

And right now, with the coronavirus pandemic keeping people inside and altering their routines, this is the perfect opportunity for people to make changes in their lives, Collinsworth said.

“There’s never been a better time to focus on your health than right now. I call this a compound moment. You are either going to come out of this better or worse. There’s so much idle time and time to be with your thoughts. It’s a crucial time to do things you’ve always wanted to do, focus on things you know you need to do and put your head down and go to work and focus on one thing at a time.”

In 2015, Collinsworth married Shea Martinez, an an All-American 800-meter runner on BYU’s track team who continues to compete. When they met at BYU, she wasn’t too concerned about her diet.

“She saw what I was doing and joined it. She saw the results and felt good,” Kyle said. “I was probably 6-7 months eating healthy when I met her. She jumped right in. It’s a huge part of our lives. We love making dinner together. It’s a good time for us to talk. We prepare the food, eat it and clean it up together. It’s always time set aside for us.”

Collinsworth understands the obstacles that prevent people from living a healthy lifestyle.

“My Rule No. 1 is to avoid too much too soon. That’s the biggest obstacle. If you were to start a diet today, and you wrote down in detail right now, I would guess for most people, they could no longer eat 95% of the food that they eat now,” he said. “What happens is, all the sudden the healthy food they’re supposed to be eating becomes stressful and negative. And the food they’re not supposed to be eating becomes the hero that they crave and miss. It’s all because you’ve tried to do too much too soon. That’s everyone’s biggest mistake. People think you have to be doing all of this crazy stuff, whether it’s running five miles or eating a perfect diet instead of simply adding a green smoothie every day. What I discovered is, when you focus on adding one thing at a time, it really compounds. When you add more good, the bad naturally goes away with time.”

Collinsworth encourages people to add one healthy habit at a time to reach their goals.

“Part of what I try to teach people now is the power of focusing on one thing at a time. I call it ‘subtraction by addition.’ I went from green smoothies and then I started having salads every day then I started riding a bike. I started adding good habits one at a time,” he said. “It was cool to look back and see that. So many things left my life with less friction and stress. That’s what I’m trying to teach people now. Getting healthy doesn’t have to be stressful. The minute it feels stressful, and you feel friction, you create a negative association to eating healthy and it almost makes it impossible to do. It’s really a big mental game, eating healthy. I learned that along my journey with my ACL.”

What you eat now impacts your future, Collinsworth said, even if you’re not an elite athlete.

“What I tell people is, eat for the next decade. If you’re in your 20s, eat for your 30s. If you’re in your 30s, eat for your 40s,” he said. “In college, I could get away with eating Taco Bell. People tell me, ‘You just eat healthy because you’re a professional athlete.’ But professional athletes don’t eat healthy, most of them. That’s the reality. I’ve been in several NBA locker rooms. That’s not the case. I see the impact. It can cut careers shorter. It’s for our future bodies. You can’t take your health for granted.”

Collinsworth has created a “One Habit At A Time” program to help others.

“Every month, I pick a habit and I create a calendar for people to follow along. For January, it was intermittent fasting,” he said. “For February, it was green smoothies. March was a walking guide. April (was) a push-up guide. I’m just trying to help people focus on one thing at a time and keeping things simple. If you think about it, if you were to add one good habit every month for the whole year, you’d come away with 12 good habits. I’m trying to help people create a healthy lifestyle. I’m not a big fan of diets because it’s restriction and frustration. It creates a negative association with what you’re trying to do. Eating healthy and exercising is one way to help us reach our true potential. If we want to be the best version of ourselves, that has to include healthy eating and exercise. It’s one way and there are many ways.”

Collinsworth’s professional career has brought him back to his home state with the Stars, which has been a blessing for him and his family.

“There have been some ups and down, being in and out of the NBA,” he said. “But this year’s been incredible, to be home and playing in front of family again. Shea was home this year, training in Provo. It’s been a very different year with everyone going on. But it’s been one of my favorites to be able to be home. With the virus, it’s a chance to focus on what matters most.”

At BYU, Collinsworth was known for racking up big numbers in a variety of categories. These days, he’s looking to add to the number of people he can help enjoy a more fulfilling lifestyle, like the one he’s discovered.