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9 Ways New Mom Maria Menounos Stays Healthy After Pancreatic Cancer

In an exclusive interview with Celebwell, Maria Menounos opens up.

It's only been a few weeks since Maria Menounos, 45, and her husband Keven Undergaro welcomed their daughter Athena via surrogate, but the TV personality has already adjusted to being a new mom. "My husband looked at me soon after and he is like, 'I think the dogs really prepared us for this,' she told us. "We've had handicapped dogs and all kinds of medical issues with all the dogs, so they've needed a lot of nurturing and care and so I think it was kind of a natural transition," she says gushing over Athena. "She's such a great baby. She's so happy and smiley and lovey and she's just our mush. We're just like in heaven with her." 

After years of trying to start a family, Menounos' dream finally came true, but not without serious challenges. A few months before Athena's arrival, the host of Heal Squad was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer–stage 2 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor. She is cancer-free now but had surgery to remove part of her pancreas, her spleen, a large fibroid, and 17 lymph nodes. "I still haven't come to grips with it all, including the fact that so very few even survive pancreatic cancer," Menounos wrote in an Instagram post in May. Today, the journalist is healthy, happy, and feels blessed to be a mother. 

In an exclusive interview with Celebwell, Menounos talks about the importance of manifesting, her "timely" collaboration with RXBAR, which showcases the power of manifesting, and her wellness routine that fuels her mind and body to perform her best as a new mom to baby Athena.


She Keeps Her Circadian Rhythm on Track


Sleep is a vital part of our overall wellness and when our circadian rhythm is off–the 24-hour internal clock in our brain that regulates cycles of alertness and sleepiness, our sleep/wake cycle is affected. "I've been waking up at sunrise every day and getting my circadian rhythm on track," Menounos explains. "Your circadian rhythm is so important and we violate it so deeply and so ever since I've been doing that, all my hormones are getting better, and my health is getting better. We talk about it on the show, so if anyone's interested you can check it out."


She Stays Away From Electronics After Sunset


Many of us are glued to our screens and TV until it's time for bed, but that's actually really harmful because it affects our sleep patterns. "If you're eating dinner at 8:00 PM and you're getting blue light toxicity from your phone after sunset, you are disrupting your melatonin production and that's why you're not sleeping well," Menounos tells us. "So if you follow those practices and you wear your blue light glasses during the day when you're using electronics and you realize how toxic that light is, you can heal your system by following the circadian rhythm and getting that sunlight, which is medicinal."

She goes on to say, "I am definitely getting nine hours [of sleep] because I'm up right now at sunrise, which is around 6:20 a.m., so I'm up at 6:00 a.m. Before I was waking up at 5:45 am, but what people don't realize is that if your circadian rhythm is off, that's why you're not sleeping."


She Gets Vitamin D


Vitamin D is a nutrient needed for good health and plays several important roles that help keep you well. It improves your mood, and your sleep quality, helps the body absorb calcium, which builds strong bones and according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, "vitamin D can reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections and reduce inflammation." The site also states, "Many of the body's organs and tissues have receptors for vitamin D, which suggest important roles beyond bone health, and scientists are actively investigating other possible functions." 

Getting enough vitamin D is a big part of Menounos' wellness routine and Athena's. To ensure she gets enough vitamin D, the actress is outside at sunrise every day. "I get that morning sunlight, vitamin D is so medicinal," she says. "I usually do Athena's first feeding out at sunrise in the light so that she's getting her vitamin D. They told me at the hospital, they're like, 'Well, she's going to get jaundice and all this stuff'. I'm like, 'No, no, no, no, you don't understand. She's not going to get any of that stuff. We're going to be in the sun."


She Eats Clean

Steve Granitz/FilmMagic

Menounos is conscious about what she consumes and says she eats a well-balanced "clean" diet. "My dad's with us right now," she explains. "He's making us eggs for breakfast, so an egg omelet with egg whites and spinach and onions and tomatoes and some sliced up cucumbers and some salad. That's an example of breakfast with some olives and maybe some feta sometimes too. So a pretty packed little plate."

For lunch, she also loads up on protein. "Lunch will be salmon or turkey or something with vegetables and salad." In the afternoon, she has a training session but has a quick snack. Before I go to get my workout, I do my chocolate sea salt manifest bar so I can get ready for the torture my trainer's going to put me through." For the last meal of the day, she fuels up on more protein. "Dinner is the same kind of thing, some protein, some vegetables, something with fiber."


She Does Pilates


Menounos works out regularly and has been with the same trainer, Andrea Orbeck, for 20 years. We do a lot of Pilates-based stuff and a lot of upper body strength so that I can pull Athena in and out of the crib without issue and get ready because she's a big girl. She's tracking as a four-month-old at two months old, so she's big. I got to be strong for her."


She Meditates

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Menounos has always made health and wellness a priority, but when she found out she was going to be a mother, she really started to meditate and manifest what she wanted. "I wanted a healthy, happy baby," she said. "I wanted to see my dad with her. I see our futures together as adults. I was doing all of that work, but I also have been focusing on full body and soul healing, and I think that's why the pancreas tumor came to the surface when it did because I was so focused on healing and getting better in time for her birth."

Menounos doesn't believe it's a coincidence that she started manifesting more and then discovered she had cancer. "It's just kind of amazing how all of this timed out so that I could discover this tumor in time, have my life saved, be able to have surgery, and then be ready for her almost like nothing happened."  She adds, "So I really, really believe in manifesting and creating the life that you want, which is why this collaboration with our RXBAR has been so perfectly aligned because we are just completely simpatico and all of this stuff."


Why Manifesting is Important to Her


Every day, Menounos takes the time to write down what she wants to manifest and uses the RXBAR to do so. Basically, we have these bars that are customizable, the wrappers are customizable and you can write what you want to manifest. They have a no BS approach to their ingredients list and health and wellness, which is why this resonates so much with me and why I love them so much."

She adds, "The best part is to write it down, write what you want every single day. I was thinking about what I wanted every day, but I was also writing what I wanted. And so I have on here, I want my four workouts a week. I want to be present for my family, so this reminds me not to try to multitask with Athena. I want to rest and meditate."


She Has Balance


Driven by a successful career, Menounos has been focused on work, but now has more balance. "I think the most surprising [thing about motherhood] is just how much love she's brought to the house, how much joy, our house could probably be lifted up into the sky with the amount of love and joy," she says. 

"My dad always used to say, 'Maria, life is about the kids and the family.' And I'd be like, 'What are you talking about?' I was always so busy with my career and now I get it."


She's More Present

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Although Menounos has faced several health scares and difficulties, she's grateful for her journey because she's now more present. "I'm really glad life happened the way it did because I'm now set up to really be present with her, really enjoy every milestone with her, whereas if I was my former self or I was so busy, so type-A, so in my career, I wouldn't have. So it's all just been such a blessing." 

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more
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