The Power of Positivity and Living Your Healthiest Healthy
The Power of Positivity and Living Your Healthiest Healthy

"We can't out exercise a bad diet. Our diet is possibly the most powerful thing that we have control of." 

- Samantha Harris

Elizabeth welcomes Samantha Harris, well-known Emmy award winning TV host and author, famous for her upbeat energy and hosting appearances on shows such as Dancing with the Stars, Entertainment Tonight, and currently the game show Tug of War. Despite being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40, Samantha has bounced back and is now helping others through her certified health coaching, and her "Your Healthiest Healthy" community courses and retreats. In this episode, Samantha shares her journey with cancer and how it inspired her to lead a healthier life, including tips on reducing toxins in and around the body, her top nutritional and lifestyle tips for feeling your best, and more. She also shares the importance of making small steps towards big lifestyle changes, and some top nutritional and lifestyle tips to help prioritize your health today.



    Elizabeth Stein 00:00
    Hi, everyone. I'm Elizabeth Stein, Founder and CEO of Purely Elizabeth. And this is Live Purely with Elizabeth, featuring candid conversations about how to thrive on your wellness journey. This week's guest is Samantha Harris, Emmy award winning TV host and best selling author Samantha Harris is best known for her eight seasons on Dancing with the Stars and Entertainment Tonight. Currently, she's the host of game show network's tug of wars. After a breast cancer diagnosis at age 40. She is now thriving and leading others to live their healthiest healthy life as a certified health coach and founder of your healthiest healthy community courses and retreats. In this episode, Samantha talks all about her cancer journey, which led her to living more healthfully than ever. She shares learnings from her cancer diagnosis, her diet and lifestyle shifts post diagnosis, which include reducing toxins in on and around the body, her top nutritional and lifestyle tips to feel your absolute best and so much more. Keep listening to learn all about Samantha and her healthiest healthy community. I'm so excited to share with you that our number one selling granola is now available at over 3,000 Walmart stores nationwide in the cereal aisle. This is a dream come true to have our granola more accessible in so many locations across the country. Our original granola was my very first granola recipe and has been a favorite of our fans ever since. Our recipe is made with organic oats, superfood grains and seeds lightly sweetened with coconut sugar and a hint of cinnamon. It has a delicious salty, sweet taste and that perfect crunch. To make it easy, I have a link in the notes section of this episode to help you find a Walmart near you. Happy Shopping. Samantha welcome to the podcast. I'm so excited for our conversation today. I just love all of your positive energy what you're putting out into the world and I of course also love that you're a fellow Integrative Nutrition grad so excited to talk about all things health and feeling your absolute best.

    Samantha Harris 02:22
    I love purely Elizabeth as a product, but I love even more you because we speak the same language and I get so excited talking to others who just kind of totally, I'm gonna just say we dork out over it

    Elizabeth Stein 02:34
    Totally 100%. So I would love to start with your wellness journey. And I know that it took a very big pivot where you really found your passion and your purpose, I think along with the cancer diagnosis. So would love to start kind of what led you into this world of health and wellness and all of that.

    Samantha Harris 02:55
    Well. So I was always someone who loved exercising and well not always not when I first moved out to LA out of college and had to figure out how to exercise and what we I know

    Elizabeth Stein 03:04
    Where are you from originally?

    Samantha Harris 03:06
    So I grew up in Minnesota and grew up in a family that was very theatrical and loved just entertaining people, my parents produced and created one of the country's first Renaissance festivals. And it's actually our first one was in Chicago. And the second one which still exists to this day is in Massachusetts. So it's called King Richard's fair named after my dad who passed at 50 of colon cancer. But he you know, he was the king and they ran this business and my mom and sister still run it to this day. But I always had these Hollywood dreams from a young age. And then I went to Northwestern University, majored in journalism, and then made a beeline out to LA because I also minored in theater I thought maybe I want to be I want to be an actor. So it was a lot of a Go Go Go world from the time I landed in LA to getting my first network primetime show which was a show called The next Joe millionaire which was like a precursor to the bachelor and all of that and then eventually got my first entertainment news job at extra and that I was at Access Hollywood an extra and E News and ultimately Entertainment Tonight for many years. But you know that world because of the 24/7 news cycle, and even though it was entertainment news was very, very much go go go. A lot of emphasis on how do you look in a dress? How do you stay thin? How do you say trim? How do you get your muscular definition? And I would find myself actually on the cover of over a dozen health and fitness magazines because I found my strong body. I really found how I loved working out I didn't realize I would enjoy it and I found the joy in it. And being in fitness classes I got I've been taught fitness classes as one of my six juggling side jobs, trying to make it in Hollywood but I really lived on this treadmill of just go go go Like at the fastest speed possible and focus on body. Never focus on health, never focus on taking time for yourself, never focus on stepping away from the rat race and making sure you're doing what you truly need to be able to live optimally and healthfully. And so that was the blindsiding wake up call when breast cancer hit at age 40.

    Elizabeth Stein 05:23
    And what happened at that time? First of all, I know that it was your story somewhat where it wasn't just you went into the doctor. So what was that process? Because I know your story. And I know what it wasn't that you just went into the doctor and all of a sudden, you discover that you had cancer, I know there is more to it, where there's a lot of learning there.

    Samantha Harris 05:42
    So much learning. So I was about to turn 40. And I thought, you know, my dad died of colon cancer at 50. I have daughters who are three and six right now, my dad's mom had breast cancer, but lived, you know, at 65, but lived to 95, I should probably set a baseline and get a mammogram. And so I did and it came back clear, which is exactly what we'd anticipated. And then 11 days later, 11 days, I was changing after a workout. And you know how tight those sports bras are, you know, you kind of move one breast to the left and the other one to the right. You circle them around, and I'm sitting there doing that. And I'm thinking, Wait a second, this is a weird feeling. What's this lump? This lump was not here before, like I literally had not felt this lump before it was right breast and I thought well, I'm not worried about it. I just had a clear mammogram. I'll bet I'll go see my OB GYN because she's always been my go to for everything. And she's the only one of any of the doctors I've ever had who actually did a clinical breast exam, you know, at each annual pap smear or whatever it was. So without hesitation she'd said get come on in. She checked it out. She said you know what? You're 40 now, and it's probably glandular 40 year olds, you know. And once you're over 40, you start to get lumpy breasts, this is just what it is. Don't worry about it. It's nothing. So I kind of just took her at her word, but a month later it was still there. And so I thought, you know, let's just get a second opinion. And I'm really proud of myself at that point that I didn't just stick my head in the sand. And I went to see my internist. Again because it wasn't cancer. So he did the same thing, quick clinical exam, he felt around and it said the same thing. It's not can't it's nothing. But if you're worried we'll keep an eye on it. Okay, so you know, and then before you knew it, Elizabeth, it was the holidays and New Years and you had to come up for air and you were I realized four months had passed since I found the lump, and it was still there. So that's when I said okay, if I'm gonna live with this, quote, nothing lump. I need to make sure that we're doing something besides just feeling it How the heck do we know what it is? Feeling it for God's sake. So that's when I went to someone who looks at breast every day as their profession and the only type of doctor who does that is an oncologist. So here I was at the, you know, the breast oncology center near my house, and that even that oncologist said, No, I don't think it's anything. But we did two ultrasounds, we did a nee needle biopsy. Subsequently, once we ended up finding the cancer, we did an MRI, not one diagnostic test, found the cancer. They say the diagnostic saw something but literally the oncologist came into the room with the results from the needle biopsy and she said good news and bad news. The good news is it's not cancer. The bad news is I don't know what it is. So I'm going to suggest I do a lumpectomy and take it out anyway. And thank goodness, she suggested that because when we went in, we found it was ductal carcinoma in site two which is cancer contained within the milk duct. But because she listened to her gut, she said you know there was this little area on the border that looked like healthy tissue but for whatever reason I wanted to sample it. I don't even know why I wanted to sample it but I did that was invasive breast cancer, but it didn't look like it in the room. And had she not done that and closed me back up. My outcome would have God forbid been a lot worse. So I went back to surgery I opted for a double mastectomy to stage reconstruction. I was on a hormone blocker for a net seven and a half years. And I'm you know 2014 And here I am not wood and stronger, more energized and more vibrant than I've ever been.

    Elizabeth Stein 09:30
    Wow, that's incredible. The power it sounds like a really listening to your body. You knew that something wasn't right.

    Samantha Harris 09:41
    I did not know the power of listening to your body. I did not know the power of knowing your body until this whole experience is possibly the biggest message I've taken from it that I share with other women. But how it's a Easy to say well know your body. Yeah. How do you do that? How? Yeah, but how do you know your body and I think that's really the. And that's where it comes to. Knowing that if you are exercising and moving your body every day, you're going to be in a place where you can notice changes physically more, when you're nourishing your body with nutrient dense foods, and getting rid of the processed junk and carcinogens and all the just terrible things that are in our food supply. I don't know why they even call it food in there, the things that go into our mouths supply is really. And then also just tapping into whether it's yoga, meditation, tai chi, breathwork, mindfulness, all of those different elements make you much more self-aware, and able to notice things because no doctor is ever going to know your body as well as you do.

    Elizabeth Stein 10:52
    So you go through this process. Now you're, as I started off saying, like you're so positive, you have such great energy. Were you always like that? Was this something that you had a renewed sense of this vibrancy and change your outlook on life,

    Samantha Harris 11:08
    I absolutely have always been a positive person, and an energizer bunny. Interestingly, the energy that I have now, it almost seems impossible. But the energy that I have now is even and being this many years or decades older than I was, obviously in my 20s, I have more energy, I don't get the slump at three o'clock in the afternoon, I don't have that I still don't like waking up in the morning. But once I'm out of bed, I go go go all the way till bedtime, with the same level of energy without the dips. And that's a nutrition thing that was really, I think the nutrition component how I changed my diet after cancer, that was the biggest thing. But cancer definitely struck down my positive spirit hardcore. And I felt this overwhelm and anxiety that I'd never experienced in my life. And so I after maybe two or three weeks of feeling like that, and still the unknown of what was to come next in my cancer journey, there was just again, I guess it was that inner voice that just said, I can't feel like this. I've got these two little girls, I have this amazing husband, you know, my mom went through all of this already with my dad, I have to be I have to change something. So I made a conscious choice to flip my perspective. And look at everything that came down next in the cancer pipeline with the most no not rose colored glasses, because that's that's just sort of ignoring, but really looking at the positive spin on things. So here it was a cancer diagnosis. Okay, so let's have some positive self talk, which has become one of my really big tools for you know, kind of the your healthiest healthy version of dealing with stress. And positive self talk was okay, why of cancer? What's good about that? Well, I'm in otherwise really good shape, which is going to lessen my chances of any sort of issues during surgery complications, it's going to allow me to bounce back a lot faster, recover more quickly. Okay, that's good. Keep talking yourself. What else is good? Okay, well, I've really good health insurance. Thank goodness, we're not going to go we're not gonna lose the house because I have cancer. That's amazing. freakin awesome. Keep going. Okay, what got a great so ports go on, I've got you. So the more that I looked at the positives in each part of it really allowed me to get through the darkest days.

    Elizabeth Stein 13:46
    That's so wonderful that you were able to like, really find what worked for you. Because that could be, I think, for a lot of people really freaking hard to get out of that negative talk and how you were able to find like, okay, I know the thing that I need to do to get me out of this. And now that you can sounds like you continue to use just whether it's stress or other parts of your life today and share that with others.

    Samantha Harris 14:11
    And it's not to say that everything is all hunky dory. And, you know, there are those moments and those days where I can't quite figure out how to get back to that. But thankfully, they're much shorter lived. And they literally are hours or days, not weeks and months. And that is incredible progress.

    Elizabeth Stein 14:33
    Yeah. I think I love having the idea of having like a list of tools that are personalized to you because of course, we're all different, but like what are those tools that help you get out of feeling like not your best so what makes me feel great, like I have a list on my iPhone notes that like things that make me feel good. And I you know, have 30 or so different things that you can look at to be like, Okay, maybe right now I don't want to do X, Y and Z but Hey, have you tried this tool right now, which I think is a really good tip for people.

    Samantha Harris 15:05
    It's a great tip. And it's something that everybody can do. And each list is going to be unique to each individual, right. And, granted, there might be some great overlap, you're like, Oh, I love that you have that on your list. I'm totally adding that to mind, by the way, I need to get your list. But I think that that's a really important and helpful tool to have. So again, besides that, you know, the positive self talk, control what you can control is another really important go to for me, and when I'm feeling stressed, when I'm feeling worried, and we have only the control over our reactions, in certain situations, our effort and our attitude. So, you know, we cannot control obviously anyone else and we, we can't control the weather and the pandemic and the you know, other people's decisions. So when we focus on on Okay, I like when the pandemic Okay, I have no control that there's a pandemic right now. What can I control? Well, I can control how I'm going to choose or not choose to wear a mask, I'm going to choose or not choose to test I can choose or not choose to go out or be indoors or out, right, these are my choices, gave me the power back to give that control, right, we got to take back the control said one of the reasons in my book, literally, it's like your healthy self, the eight easy ways to take control, and then the subtitle control, what is it, I can't live longer, healthier, leaner life, I have to look at my book title to remember what it's called. But the idea of being able to take back our power was I think one of the greatest gifts that cancer gave to me because I didn't realize I could be in control. So control what you can control positive self talk, I love your list idea, then also worry when you have to worry. So that also has been really empowering to me, because we all know we have these crazy monkey minds that go nuts. And we worry about everything from the little things of overthinking what we're going to do for dinner tonight to the big worries. But a lot of times we don't have to worry all the time. For instance, we in the midst of the pandemic, I started peeing blood. And immediately of course, having had cancer. Yeah, my mind immediately went to God forbid I have bladder cancer, I have this cancer, whatever. So try to take a breath. And remember, okay, if God forbid, there is a diagnosis of something bad, I'm gonna have plenty of time to worry. So why don't I just take control of what I can take control, I can call my doctor, make an appointment, take a breath, go to the appointment, see what happens. Right. And I had a UTI it was like no big deal, right. So things like that to worry when we have to worry also are great. And then for me the other go to Tools, stressed or anxious situations or when you're feeling overwhelmed. Breathing and breath work has been something that I used to think was that weird thing that. And that was like, Oh, I get it, I totally understand the power of the breath. Whether it is a you know, an hour on a mat, or literally two or three rounds of deep belly breaths before you go into a meeting or while you're sitting in traffic aggravated, or whatever it is. And the fact that we can knowingly activate our parasympathetic nervous system, right? The rest and digest can never be active at the same time that our high cortisol high stress, parasympathetic nervous system that fight and flight is active. So the fact that we can make a choice to activate the parasympathetic through the breath work, automatically deactivating all that high cortisol which is you know, surging in the levels of chronic cortisol in our culture is terrible because it leads to inflammation, which leads to disease. And so I love that I can go away. It in sometimes it's even a stressful situation. It can be an exciting situation, right? You can just be happy but like the energy is going and you get a little surge of cortisol there. But you don't want to even live in that place for too long. I mean, you can stay in the happy frame of mind, but not that like frenetic happiness brings the cortisol

    Elizabeth Stein 19:22
    Yeah, the breath work is so fascinating. I just had Dr. Padre on the podcast, who has a new book out on gut health. And he goes into a lot of the gut breathwork parasympathetic connection. And when you really bring this science with it to say like, when you're in that fight or flight, your blood goes away from your gut and cannot be digesting and therefore, if our gut is like the root of our health, we need to be in that parasympathetic, relaxed mode as much as we possibly we can for our gut.

    Samantha Harris 20:01
    Yeah, without a doubt. I mean, we know the gut brain connection through the vagus nerve is so profound as well, and what that means for our level of anxiety and dealing with so much. And so when we can take those deep belly breaths, and then the gut healthy, will you bring up the microbiome and why? You know why what you're doing it purely, Elizabeth is so important to just getting the right foods into our gut so that our microbiome and the good gut bacteria can be there, because not only is 70% of our immune system in our gut, but that gut brain connection, how is our mental health going to be, it's going to be affected by what we're eating and how we're nourishing ourselves. And so when I talk to people who are either private clients or social media followers, or in my, you know, I'm a membership coaching group, and wherever I am talking to people, the idea of, we can make a change in slow small steps. And if there's one change to make, the best change to make starts with your nourishment. We can't out exercise a bad diet, our diet is possibly the most powerful thing that we have control of 100 making those decisions so many times a day.

    Elizabeth Stein 21:16
    100%. So let's get into some of the diet and lifestyle pieces, and particularly, you know, for you after this diagnosis, and you changed some things in your life, like what were those some of those major changes? And then how does that play out today in really what you share with your community?

    Samantha Harris 21:36
    Well, so I mean, there's so been so many changes. First was the nutrition changes that I made, I didn't realize how I was eating. Okay, so first of all, you look when I was hosting Dancing with the Stars, I had eight seasons on the show standing next to these incredible bodied professional dancers with the just the sculpted, gorgeous muscles. And I was already down that path from my workouts of wanting that toned, tight body and having really achieved it. And I worked even harder, probably while I was on dancing and on entertainment. I always worked in entertainment news show full time while I was hosting Dancing with the Stars. So, you know, I was if I wasn't interviewing the celebrities on dancing and their professional dance partners, I was interviewing celebrities and on the set of their movies. And so I had so much focus on just wanting to look good. And to me that meant I had to eat a lot of animal meat, a lot of animal protein to build that sculpted muscle and 21 out of 21 meals a week. Here I was eating yogurt or eggs for breakfast poultry, usually for lunch and fish or more poultry for dinner. A bean based meal or a plant based meals was never even something in my deck of cards I didn't understand with oh, plant based what you mean the side dish. What did you I grew up in Minnesota land of cows, right? Like I ate every part from tongue to practically tail. So I had no idea that there was this world beyond animal meat. But when I was diagnosed and I learned that I had no genetic link, and yet, one in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Well, I was actually in the majority because only five to 10% of breast cancer is actually hereditary. So here I was, with this sort of frustrated patient perspective of okay, I don't have even though my dad had cancer and there's a breast colon connection and his mom had breast cancer but and Okay, here I am no hereditary link. Why? I'm the healthy one. I'm the one who works out I'm the one who eats all these like lean, you know egg whites and skinless boneless chicken and yogurt I'm supposed to be healthy, not realizing how many sugars and junk and crap and you know, is in it and so I began to research because I'm a journalist that least I could lean into that and I read and researched everything I could I really learned it is what we put in on and around our body that affects our overall well being that keeps on or turns off hopefully certain strands or structures of DNA that will develop into a cancer or a dementia or heart disease. And so that gave me so much excitement and empowered me in a way that it ignited something so so powerful that I needed to share it with others and that's when I wrote the book your healthiest healthy it's why develop the you know your healthiest healthy community and courses and retreats because I just want to shout from the rooftops Hey, start with your diet one small step at a time and maybe look at your makeup bag. What are you putting on your skin are there endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. What's in your hair products and your cleaning supplies? Do you have those air fresheners plugged into the wall for releasing chemicals all day long into your home? You know, all these things that I didn't realize and so easily plausible to be overwhelmed by it. And that's why I just go back to It's one small step at a time.

    Elizabeth Stein 25:18
    Yeah, I think you make such a good point that it can be so confusing. It's can be so overwhelming. You hear so much information coming at you. There are differing opinions like where do you start? What do you pick? What do you say? I want to try this. I'm going to do that. So for people who are starting out, where do you like to usually start? I know we've kind of talked on food, but more I guess, specifically, what are those kind of top tips when it comes to food that you think are like, okay, these are the tried and true staples? To start with? The good thing to say

    Samantha Harris 25:55
    no, look, I have, unlike most experts who have their book series, and even though a lot of them have one particular like they've developed this as the one way you need to eat, and you have to follow my way or you're not going to succeed with your best optimal health. So you have you know, everyone from the vegan vegetarian, macrobiotic to the paleo and the Keto, and then the down the middle of the Mediterranean, the one thing that all of them, because I've researched literally all of them, and then the science behind it. They'll all agree that a plant based foundation is key. So if you say okay, well, I could go plant based, but I really don't want to be vegetarian or vegan. Okay. So if you're going to have meat, how are you sourcing it? Is it grass fed? Is it organic? Is it pasture raised? Are you having the 8, 12 ounce portion? Which is unnecessary for anyone? Or can you bring it down and have two or three ounces? At insert? You know, add a serving one meal a day or two meals a day? Or we'll How can you change it up so that you still have some of that, and thereby reducing the process junk as well as the other thing that they'll all agree on. So my biggest tips are, fill your plate at least half full of veggies that every meal, What are your favorites? Oh my goodness. Okay, so Well, first of all, I intermittent fast, which is a newer thing in the last couple of years. And I never, if you would have said, Your Samantha, I don't want you to eat anything for 14 to 16 hours a day, I would have said you're crazy. But during the pandemic, because I was home with the kids, and I was getting my workout in on an empty stomach and then starting my workday, but then it was like stop down for their recess, and then their lunch meat prepping, I realized all of a sudden, I wasn't actually having my smoothie until earliest 11, if not 12, or even sometimes one o'clock. And so I inadvertently began intermittent fasting and then realized, Oh, this feels amazing. And then I started to read all the research and all the incredible benefits. So when I say I start my day with a smoothie that doesn't start before, you know, 11 or 12,

    Elizabeth Stein 28:10
    like a 14 to 16 hour fast?

    Samantha Harris 28:12
    I mean, the earlier the better if I could stop eating at seven every night, that would be amazing. But with family and kids and activities, it's usually in a nine o'clock dead drop no matter what. But I try to get as close to 8:30 as possible eight would be even better. But so yeah, so I usually am going nine to 11 minimum window and you know, I try to stay pretty regimented about it. I really do. And I usually break it actually with a handful or two of raw cashews just because I'm really excited to now eat and sometimes you know sometimes I'm like okay, now I really am hungry and I want to eat but it takes me a while to put my smoothie together. And we know from a variety of studies that handful of nuts a day again staying away from the ones that have processed with seed oils and salt and all that actually helps longevity and it could be because those people eating raw nuts are also eating other healthy things I'm not sure that they were able to you know isolate for that. But yeah, so my smoothie is and by the way anyone listening who wants my smoothie recipe or wants my list of clean you know free of toxin makeup or skincare or haircare I've really run a long course of working with even when I was just back shooting 65 episodes of a game show that I host I actually asked my hair makeup girls, my good friends of mine said hey, can we going into this, I only want products that are free of anything harmful like no carcinogens no toxins, no endocrine disruptors. So anyway, so I have a great long list. That's great weere they like surprised? They're getting more and more requests for that these days. I don't know, that they actually want. They were like yes please. And they are now integrating a lot of those that new finds into their kits as they go to people because they want that for their lives. What my hair girl had just had twins and her first set of babies. And so she's like, I gotta start their

Mix & Match
Build Your Own Bundle