Success Stories

Meet other health nuts.

Here are a several people who made changes in their lives – and brought healthy pistachios along for the journey.



Training harder, eating smarter to compete in toughest endurance sport.

Having played a lot of different sports growing up, without a doubt, water polo is one of the most physically demanding. Going into these past Olympic Games in Rio – my third time representing the United States – we started training back in January, six days a week for six to eight hours a day. As one of four seasoned players and 38 years- old (I turned 39 in Rio), I had to focus even harder on being fit and healthy, and stick to my motto: don’t age gracefully, age ferociously.

Any professional athlete will tell you, you get out of your body what you put into your body. Proper nutrition is just as important, if not more so, as training. Food not only serves as fuel but also can aid in recovery, which is essential in my game. Thrashing around in the water non-stop for one hour is the ultimate challenge, and that’s where pistachios come into play. They’re packed with protein, potassium and other nutrients that help replenish the body after intense exercise and promote muscle recovery.

The Games in Rio were my last. Now that I’m retired as an Olympic athlete and moving forward as a water polo coach at Pepperdine University, I’m not training as intensely, but I try to make sure that I eat and drink as healthy as possible every day. I like to start off with a green drink that I make that has a lot of spinach in it with bananas and pineapples, and then two scoops of clean protein. For lunch I usually like to have a chicken salad or healthy wrap. For dinner, I am always trying to get a healthy protein with lots of veggies and a small portion of carbs. And for snacks? Still sticking with pistachios.

I also make sure that I exercise a minimum of thirty minutes a day, seven days a week. It isn’t always easy to make time for this, but it is a must if you want to live a healthy lifestyle as you get older. And adhering to this game plan makes sure I have the energy to keep up with my lovely wife, Laura, and our young kids, Adrianna and Makenna. They’re my daily reminders to instil another vital element: fun!



Life Delivered a Wake-Up Call

"My life was very busy and hectic prior to dropping the weight and getting back into shape. I was always finding excuses why I couldn't get into the gym or why I couldn't do this or I couldn't do that.  I allowed myself to be paralyzed in my mindset and developed this "I can't" mentality, which was never me in my early years.  I had overcome childhood obesity, gotten into tremendous athletic shape, became a good athlete, then a fashion model, and then … life happened.  I got stressed from business, work, relationships, and personal bodily injuries. I had a terrible snow skiing accident in the mid-2000s and messed up my back. In fact, I had some damaged spinal discs. It got hard to move around and food became a comfort for me – an escape. Unfortunately, with that escape, my health escaped me, and the weight just started compacting!

The turning point for me was in December 2013.  I was at an all-time high of 408 lbs. I couldn't get around without a cane, and life was just miserable. I didn't even want to leave my place because I was so embarrassed of where I had allowed myself to go. So I knew I needed to make a drastic change. I started to watch my food intake and tried to start exercising through the pain, starting in January 2014.  I got down to roughly 380-385 lbs. by April. It was in April that my life would make a change for the better. My best friend and business partner, Dan, called me up one night and said, 'Matt! You need to go try out for NBC's hit TV show, The Biggest Loser!' I thought, I have nothing to lose but weight. 'Okay, how do I try out?' He said, 'It's tomorrow morning, and you need to be there by 7:30am! I'll pick you up at 4:30 am so you'll be there early!' I was like, 'Umm ... okay. Sounds good.' So I did all the preliminary paperwork and preregistration online and went to the local Kinkos that night to print pictures they requested. Got up the next morning, went to the open casting call, and long story short, I was blessed to make it on Season 16 of The Biggest Loser. During my time on the show, it really helped me snap back into reality and allowed me to gain that 'I can do it' attitude again!  

My goal originally when starting on my weight loss journey was to just be able to fully move around again. To have full mobility.  Due to my weight (compacted by injuries and depression), I wasn't living a full former fiancé even told me she wouldn't stay by my side any longer if I didn't make necessary changes, which hurt me more. I knew I needed to make changes if I wanted to have a full life again ... if I wanted to keep my former fiancé in my life, too. Because honestly, I was just going through the motions but I wasn't living. My goal was to gain my life and confidence back. To gain the person I knew I could be again. My goal was to thrive in life and not be a walking motionless zombie.

During my journey, I made many changes. It wasn't all at once, but became more of a forced situation once I was selected and blessed to be on The Biggest Loser. As I went through the process, I really developed the key to my weight loss and sustained the new lifestyle. There were 5 key elements to my success, and I came to call them 'The 5 Pillars of Transformation.' They are:

1) Mindset

2) Nutrition

3) Exercise

4) Supplementation

5) Accountability 

I started to get my mindset fixed and healed. I started improving my nutrition and making better choices. I didn't necessarily give up the foods I loved, but redesigned healthier versions with the help of The Biggest Loser nutritionist, Cheryl Forberg, my wonderful white light team, and our amazing friend and trainer, Jen Widerstrom! I really found pistachios were a wonderful snack and a positive addition to my nutrition regimen. I changed the way I worked out and exercised. I included some supplementation to help ensure I was getting the proper micro- and macro- nutrients that I needed daily.  And the 5th pillar of transformation was accountability!  That was the stabilizer in my life and allowed me to push through those hard times and long days where I just wanted to give up on myself.  My team, friends, family, trainer, and wonderful friends I met during the show were there for me, holding me accountable, making sure I kept going and didn't stop!  

I am a huge fan of pistachios! They are literally one of my favorite pastime treats and snacks! They really help me to stay on track with my nutritional program, more so than anything else, because I loved the taste, and they work perfectly for a healthy snack to fill me up. When I go to the movies, I sneak a zip lock bagful into the theaters and snack on them versus popcorn and other alternatives. I also include pistachios with my main meals and love adding them to my salads! They are a huge source of healthy fats and great filler for me.  When I am craving something bad, salty or fried, I eat a handful of pistachios and it takes away the cravings within minutes!

This has changed my life tremendously. It keeps me on target with my body and weight loss goals. It's perfect for when I am starting a lower carb diet and keto diet, too! Pistachios are one of my main treats and, in fact, food of choice. I would have thought I was "nuts" prior to dropping the weight, thinking I could never eat pistachios and lose weight. It's amazing how much your mind changes when you get educated and learn what's good for you versus what's not.  Pistachios will always be a part of my life from now until the end of my time here!"



Finding Confidence Outside Her Comfort Zone

"I hated my body for as long as I can remember. By 11, I was already hiding my body in baggy clothes and comparing myself to skinny friends. I was very aware others saw me as 'chunky.' Even my father, on more than one occasion, would point out my 10-20 extra pounds.

That’s when my relationship with dieting began.

In high school, there were times I would do 100 sit ups before bed and eat nothing but a small salad for lunch and a small portion of dinner. Trying so desperately to be skinny, I would simply try to starve myself.

In college, the common freshmen 15, or should I say 25, reared its ugly head. One year, I returned home for winter break where, during a holiday meal, a very honest family member pointed out the fact I 'put on a few pounds.'

By the end of graduate school, I was now 50 lbs. heavier. I was horrified, depressed and mad at myself for not doing anything about it. I now longed to be that 'chunky' girl in high school. I looked at pictures of myself in disbelief. I was skinny back then! What the heck was I thinking?

Post-college, I was on a mission. In that first year after graduate school, I lost about 45 pounds through some extreme measures like fasting and appetite suppressants, but the weight started coming back on. I just couldn’t maintain a loss with my negative body image and horrible eating habits.

In 2005, I had my first child and my perspective shifted a bit. Quite a bit. I didn’t want to be a self-conscious, unhealthy mom who used her body image and weight as an excuse not to have fun with my child. So I started pushing myself out of my comfort zone, getting more active and adventurous. I discovered that as long as I was food journaling, eating nutritious foods, being honest about what I really was eating and staying active, I would lose weight.

The more I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, the more confident in my body I would become. My journey may have started as a quest to be skinny, but I’ve gained so much more then I have lost, especially in the diet and exercise realm.

When I started, I hated to exercise and my food choices were pretty typical — 100 calorie packs, microwave convenience meals, fast food. Over the years, however, as I’ve learned to maintain my loss and healthier lifestyle, my food choices slowly changed. I started buying more produce, cooking more at home, and seeking less processed snacks like fruit and pistachios. The healthier I ate the healthier I would want to eat.

Interesting enough the same was true with exercise — the more active I was, the more I wanted to be active!

Now I simply do what I can when I can without striving for skinny or perfection and, at almost 40, I’m the healthiest and fittest I’ve ever been!"



Undoing an Unhealthy Lifestyle

"At 35 years old, I was 235 lbs. and well overweight. According to the BMI, I was obese. I was low on energy, lacked ambition, physically inactive, stressed at work and had an awful diet. I had also just been blessed with a new baby girl. I was drinking lots of beer, eating plenty of very unnatural foods and felt horrible. The worst part was, I didn’t even really see or understand the problem!

After living with a general unhealthy and unhappy feeling, I went to the doctor for a general health checkup. My doctor looked me in the eye and told me I had stage 2 hypertension and was horribly overweight and needed to lose weight. He went on to tell me that Stage 2 hypertension was very serious and not too far from a heart attack … at 35 years old!!

That very day, I went home and decided to make some big changes in my life. After some counseling and research, I decided I needed to get on a regular exercise regimen right away, so I began to jog in the afternoons after work. I did this regularly and found quickly that it was a wonderful stress reliever and made me feel great! I soon got to the point where I could run for a few miles without stopping, and I found myself looking forward to evening runs. I also noticed that I had lost a couple of pounds after a couple of weeks. Things were improving, but I knew I needed more.

I read a lot about nutrition and asked lots of questions, and I noticed that there were many fad diets that were strangely strict, unnatural as far as nutrition is concerned, and anecdotal evidence showed them to be ineffective. I have always felt connected with nature and the idea that made the most sense to me was to try and eat as naturally as possible, regardless of fat or carbohydrate content that is so largely lambasted in the media. I quit drinking beer immediately and in doing so, I found myself craving fruit. I began eating lots of apples and berries and found that they were delicious and convenient to take with me while on the go. I also found that nuts were wildly delicious, convenient, and very filling. I quickly developed a diet that involved mostly snacking on nuts and fruit and began to experiment with nut mixture trail mix blends. These blends included pistachios, walnuts, peanuts, dried fruits, coconut and dark chocolate. I found these snacks to be so delicious that I was snacking all the time and when mealtimes came, I was not that hungry. That freed me from the ravenous cravings I once had and kept me from overeating at mealtimes. After about a month of eating like this, I began losing weight at an incredible rate and I was feeling great!!

My health was increasing rapidly, my energy and ambition were inclining, my doctor was impressed, and I was even thinking more clearly!

I am now 187 lbs (which is 10 pounds lighter than I was as a senior in high school) and my blood pressure is normal. I am right on target with the BMI and my doctor is impressed. My hobbies are outdoor sports and running. I still eat the same diet filled with nuts and fruit (among other things), and my life is no longer dictated by uncontrollable cravings. I have not once looked back, and I look forward to a longer, much better quality life going forward and now can’t imagine eating any other way! Most importantly, I now have the energy and stamina to keep up with my sweet little three-year-old girl!"



Good health became a family affair

"To say nutrition has always been a part of my life is somewhat of an understatement. When I was twelve, my grandmother passed away from complications of Type II diabetes. By the time I entered high school, my mother had received her diagnosis. By my sixteenth birthday, I was diagnosed with metabolic syndrome and was morbidly obese. Something finally clicked: I realized I was next in line to get the disease; to be the third generation with Type II diabetes. My greatest fear was that I would gain the 'freshman 15,' putting me that much closer to my own diagnosis. I was determined to beat the genetics I’d been given and made some serious lifestyle and behavioral modifications.  

I started with some obvious changes; I cut out fast food and soft drinks. I replaced snacks with healthy alternatives like fruit, pistachios and various other nuts. Once some of the weight began to come off, I implemented a light exercise regimen. I convinced my mother to join me and soon enough she had begun to lose weight also. I was fascinated by what impact nutrition played in my life. I did my best to help my mother and acted as a star role model by following a healthy diet. When I left home for college, I carried my momentum forward. I made all my own food and organized exercise classes for my friends and myself.

While in college, I lost some weight through diet and decided to implement a workout routine. Fortunately, I had a friend who was willing to coach me as I started to exercise. We would meet at my dorm and then head to the gym. I would walk there as my warm-up, and she would run back and forth between myself and the gym until I got there. Once we were in the gym, she was always by my side. She helped pace me by jogging a few steps ahead of me, and eventually I ran my first mile in college! She was able to get me around the track and prepped me for 5Ks. She was not only my friend and coach, she was also one of my bridesmaids.

I loved to teach my friends new recipes by holding weekly cooking lessons. Helping my friends eat better and improve their health had become quite the hobby of mine, and it occurred to me, 'Why not do this as my career?' I always had a passion for the sciences, and I’d thought of myself going into a career where I can have significant impact on people’s lives. By becoming a Registered Dietitian, I would be able to have a rewarding and fulfilling career. By graduation, I had lost 120 pounds, and not only changed the course of my own life but also that of my mother’s.College is a tough place to lose weight. Everywhere I turned we had availability of free pizza and junk food. We would road trip to nearby universities and potato chips and cookies always came along for the ride. This was a struggle for me, but I found carrying nuts to be a great solution. They lasted long, were portable, and filled my salt craving. I especially liked that I it took longer to eat pistachios because of the shell. I was able to control how much I consumed without blindly snacking. It’s been a few years since I graduated, but the weight has remained off and my healthier lifestyle has endured. Recently I graduated with my Master’s in Dietetics and Nutrition and hope to continue on to a Ph.D. I used to live for food and to eat, but now I eat to live and am happy to say that pistachios are a part of that."


Smart Recipes for Healthy Snacking