Some might refer to Maria Menounos’s return to the airwaves — after being mostly absent for nearly five years — as a comeback. But for the 43-year-old TV personality, whose world was shattered by the death of her mother last May, it’s much more about transformation and, ultimately, resurrection.
On a recent episode of her self-help podcast, Better Together, the best-selling author, producer, and entrepreneur repeatedly referred to “the old Maria” and “the new Maria.” That demarcation began half a decade ago, when her mother was diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer. Shortly after, Menounos herself went to the doctor to investigate the headaches and blurry vision she’d been experiencing and was diagnosed with a hemangioma (a benign brain tumor) that required a seven-hour surgery.
Amid those life-altering diagnoses, Menounos struggled with fertility, turned to surrogacy, and somehow managed to work, pay the bills, and take care of her mother and her father, who has type 1 diabetes.
When COVID struck both of her parents in November 2020, she was left figuring out how to nurse them back to health amid so many setbacks — while on the verge of a breakdown herself.
Yet as overwhelming as these struggles have been, especially the loss of her mother, they also set the stage for a life-changing journey toward self-healing, reinvention, and acceptance. “I think that when life presents two brain tumors in your life, you get new perspective very quickly,” Menounos says of her reawakening. “I knew I needed to make changes in my life. The old Maria, for instance, gave her power away, and the new Maria owns her power more — and she listens to herself and her gut more.”
“It’s been a great guiding force,” she continues. “The new Maria isn’t as tied up in achieving and is much more about her health in a 360-degree way. I like to think of myself as a human being, not just a human doing.”
It’s not that her days of red-carpet reporting and interviewing celebrities are over. For now, though, these things are on the back burner: She has more important personal work to do — for herself and for others.
“My podcast has been my rudder to make sure I stay on the path and continue growing, learning, and being a health advocate for everyone who listens. That reminds me to always be a health advocate for myself — and it’s just one of the reasons why we are all ‘better together.’”
Hosting a daily roster of self-help guests, such as Deepak Chopra, Dr. Shefali, and Dr. Mark Hyman, Menounos has moved into the area of mindfulness, self-care, and personal transformation. She’s intent on educating her listeners — and herself — on how to shift attention to the stuff that really counts: health, gratitude, and happiness.
It’s all still a work in progress. But that’s just the point: Menounos is living out what she discusses while joining her listeners on a life-altering journey to discover how to live better, be better, and always keep growing.
Q&A With Maria Menounos
Experience Life | How would you describe the last four to five years of your life?
Maria Menounos | It’s been a time of growing and transformation with a lot of pain mixed in. I’ve learned that personal growth often comes from pain and grief, and it’s not necessarily an obstacle that you have to just overcome. Even though I’ve worked very hard at creating new habits and forging a new path, these last five years have been stressful, because I was dealing with life and death every day.
EL | How did your podcast come about?
MM | I got diagnosed with my brain tumor about two months after my mom got diagnosed. I was in a tornado and had to figure out how to take care of both of us. It was a personal-development journey, and the show was born out of my natural curiosity around wanting to be better and to grow and learn.
I also really needed answers and to find a way to help my mom beat the odds. My reporting and entertainment background provided me access, and I was able to take a deep dive into all these things that were interesting to me and would be helpful on my journey. As I say on the show, “Getting better isn’t easy, but it’s a whole lot easier when we can do it together.”
EL | What is your goal with the show?
MM | It’s about learning to re-raise ourselves every day. It’s about how to reprogram ourselves, which is vital. One of the things Dr. Shefali and I talked about on the show recently was whether people can have this personal metamorphosis without a crisis in their lives. I think if there’s one good thing that came out of COVID, it was like this country experienced a collective brain tumor — every single person was stopped in their tracks because they realized that the whole world shut down because of health. If that didn’t make us focus on and care about our health, I don’t know when we will. Every day, I get to be in this “how do I get better?” space, and every day I open my eyes more to what’s possible.
EL | You advocate a lot for self-care. How can that change someone’s life?
MM | Self-care helps distinguish between what’s important and what’s not, because most of us are not taught to really love and take care of ourselves from an early age. Most of us don’t have any regard for our health until it’s unavoidable and massively screaming at us. We’re taught from a young age that we have to become somebody — we have to be successful — so we come out of the womb like bullets, and we’re on that bullet train.
But no one along the way is saying, “Your health is your wealth.” And when I was in that hospital bed and couldn’t do what I’d always done, which was work, work, work and push on, it was devastating. Part of what we try to do on the show is reshape and retrain people to realize there is an alternative.
EL | Do you think “the old Maria” would have disregarded her own brain-tumor symptoms, had you not gone through this experience with your mom and discovered the importance of self-care?
MM | Possibly. I was the queen of telling my body to shut up, because I was too busy to deal.
When cars make noise, we take them to the mechanic. When our bodies make noises, we’re like, I’m busy. I don’t have the time to take you to the doctor.
But I have time to take my car to the mechanic, because we know if we don’t take the car in, the problem’s going to get worse and I’m going to have to pay even more money. But what about our health? Isn’t that valuable? No one thinks about it like that, until it’s too late.
EL | So how do we begin the journey that leads to taking better care of ourselves?
MM | I talk about “the accumulation factor” every day on my show. We eat fast food, we work 20 hours a day, we run ourselves ragged. In our 20s we can get away with abusing ourselves. By the time we’re in our 40s, all the stuff we didn’t take care of in our 20s and 30s starts to kick in. Now we’re dealing with full-blown diseases and illnesses because we’ve beaten our bodies up — whether it’s been the toxins in the foods we eat, toxicity of the mind, or work and family toxicity. It all accumulates mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
We need to steer toward focusing on our health and take baby steps, make better choices, and be more present. This helps us make better decisions, and making good choices is a message for all of us, every day — that we have power and are in control of our destiny. Where focus goes, the energy flows.
EL | When you think of the strong foundations in your life, what comes to mind?
MM | I think the foundation that first and foremost grounds me is my connection to God. My parents and my husband, Keven, have always been grounding forces for me, too — and, of course, my animals!
EL | What’s your ultimate goal for yourself?
MM | I’m on the journey. I’m still working on stuff. But there’s no destination I need to arrive at. Things will always continue to come up in our lives. You get better in one area, then there’s the next thing and the next thing and the next thing.
I still cry, grieve, and can be rough on myself. But then I’ll have a conversation with my husband or someone else close to me and they’ll remind me that I don’t have to get past how I’m feeling — that it’s all part of the journey.
I end every show by saying, “Be nice, make good choices, and be present.” And I end every evening with my daily prayers and my gratitude list, which reminds me not to be hard on myself. Instead of focusing on the one bad thing that happened that day, don’t forget about all the amazing things.