Birthdays haven't always been a celebration for Kyle Korver.
While the NBA star and Creighton University alumnus was making a name for himself as a professional athlete, he dreaded getting older.
“Thirty has traditionally been the scary age in the NBA,” he told The World-Herald. “After 30, teams assume you are on the downswing. So as I got closer to 30, I started to get more serious about my diet and nutrition.”
The Pella, Iowa, native said he knew he had to do something to stand out on the court. So he turned to Terry Shanahan, a fellow Creighton alum and Omaha entrepreneur who has built a business around educating people about the Paleo diet, which is modeled after the eating habits of cavemen. It eliminates dairy, grains and legumes and focuses on meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Shanahan coaches people to treat food as fuel to improve overall health and day-to-day performance.
The coaching business got a jumpstart when Korver hired Shanahan to live with him in Salt Lake City while he was playing for the Utah Jazz and be his around-the-clock nutrition consultant.
Shanahan, founder of the Shanahan Plan and the Paleo Transition, cooked Korver's meals, coached him on nutrition and helped Korver change his perspective on food consumption. Korver said he started by cutting out dairy and gluten and started to see his energy levels rise. Korver said he was amazed at the results.
Shanahan said it's not coincidental that Korver had one of his best seasons in the NBA in 2010, establishing the NBA single-season three-point shooting record.
“I can't do my job well if I'm not feeling well and energized,” said Korver, who is now 32 and plays for the Atlanta Hawks. “Over the years, Terry has helped me turn my diet into a lifestyle. I feel better and healthier in my 30s than I did in my 20s.”
Shanahan, 33, has helped thousands of people get their lives on track with nutrition. Though he's helped celebrities and several professional athletes like Korver, Shanahan also works with everyday people interested in changing their lives.
He's consulted with clients all over the world through his websites: www.theshanahanplan.com and www.thepaleotransition.com. Seventy percent of his clients are outside of Omaha. He talks with some of them on Skype and meets with some for one-on-one consultations.
He even grocery shops with his clients to help them understand what to buy.
Though he graduated from Creighton University with a degree in entrepreneurship and had a passion for fitness, Shanahan had no idea how his own health issues would turn into a career for him.
He sells himself on the fact that he knows firsthand how eliminating certain foods from your diet can improve your life tremendously.
From the time Shanahan was six months old to age 24, he had pneumonia nine times. He had severe respiratory infections, chronic fatigue syndrome and digestive issues. He was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, or chronic widespread pain.
His health made it so difficult to function that he stopped working and started drawing disability payments at age 25.
“I felt horrible all the time and I didn't know why,” he said. “I couldn't get the through the day and I had no energy and focus.”
After seeing 27 doctors and specialists throughout his life, he was referred to a holistic practitioner. He admitted he thought it was a bit of a joke at first when she told him his problems were a result of his diet. But he was desperate to feel better, so he listened. He went completely gluten-free, eliminated milk and white, starchy sugars from his diet.
“I started to notice within the first month I didn't have joint pain and my mental clarity and my mood were better,” he said. “This was the first time in my life I was getting immediate feedback so I was willing to keep going, and it quickly became a part of my life.”
In 2008, at age 28, his business was born. Korver was his first big client and the validation that Shanahan even had a business.
Fast-forward to 2014, and he has a growing business.
“The demand is growing exponentially each year,” he said. “In 2008 and 2009, no one knew what Paleo was. Now, more and more people are aware that the food we put in our body is very important to our health and we can be proactive.”
Though his business model has shifted and changed over the years through trial and error, he said he realized that he can make more of an impact and sustain a business financially by doing most of his consulting online. From 2010 to 2011, his business income grew 47 percent. The past few years have seen smaller growth mostly because he has been focused on launching the online coaching program, the Paleo Transition.
“The online platform gives me a much better business model moving forward and a much more steady stream of income and the ability to grow,” he said.
Shanahan recently had 55 people go through a trial session of the Paleo Transition, and he expects roughly 100 to start today. His goal is to have 500 people go through the program this year. Participants pay a one-time fee of $197 for the program, which includes a six-week challenge in which participants can earn weekly prizes for their progress.
Byron McFarland, a 54-year-old Omaha business owner, has transitioned his diet over the last month with Shanahan's help. He stepped on the scale sometime in October and knew something had to be done. He's now down three pants sizes and feeling better than he has in a long time.
“I am really enjoying the mental clarity and the energy,” McFarland said. “For busy executives, this is an ideal diet.”
As for Korver, he still maintains a gluten-free diet and incorporates Paleo meals throughout the week. Korver's wife is allergic to gluten, so that makes staying on track easier.
“I have felt a huge difference in my body, mostly in my knees. I started to experience tendinitis in my knees in my mid-20s, but over time I've stuck to a gluten-free/Paleo diet and the tendinitis has slowly faded away. I have actually never felt better.”