A good mom wakes you up in the morning, brightens your day and teaches you all those important life lessons, from the meaning of family to the importance of growing up healthy. Well, Joan Lunden is a good mom. As host of ABC's Good Morning America for nearly two decades, she woke up the nation by interviewing the world's greatest leaders and providing lessons on how to best care for their families, homes and careers. She's written a stack of books on parenting, including the recently re-released Growing Up Healthy and even played herself in the 2006 indie hit, Thank You for Smoking.
And did we mention she has seven kids? Yes, seven. There's Jamie, Lindsay and Sarah, and there's toddler twins Kate and Max and baby twins Kimberly and Jack, who were delivered by a surrogate while Lunden eagerly prepared to be a new parent again in her '50s.
This time, Lunden was the one being interviewed. We soon discovered what makes this mom's mom tick. In fact, although she's known to millions as the longest-running host on early morning TV, she's known to her kids simply as — that's right — "mom."
You are one of the most visible moms in America, which is bound to come with more than a little bit of pressure. How do you handle it?
All the shows on parenting I've done have given me access to all the experts. And you know what? Even with them, I find that sometimes I'll let something slip by. I feel like I'm at the cutting edge, and even me in my busy life can let something go by. There's just so much information today to sift through, and it changes so much. You just have to roll with it and just try to keep up.
Your 2004 book, Growing Up Healthy, offers a step-by-step step plan for parents designed to raise childhood obesity awareness and establish life-long healthy eating patterns, in a guide that covers such topics as allergies, eating disorders, and exercise. What prompted you to take on such big issues?
Dr. Myron Wenig, whom I've interviewed many times, did a study on the link between the eating habits we instill in our children and the likelihood that they'll have chronic illnesses as an adult. It was a very important piece of work, and if he just did it by himself, only so many eyes would see it. So I decided to get involved in it, and, as always happens, I didn't just put my name on it. I worked on it for a year preceding the birth of my first twins, and that was the first time I truly understood it.
I'm not convinced that every parent out there realizes what's going on. We have an epidemic of childhood obesity in this country, and for the first time, we are seeing 9- and 10-year-olds with high blood pressure and early-onset diabetes — that didn't happen 20 years ago. The U.S. Surgeon General said this is the first generation that may end up dying before their parents.
My goal is to make parents understand what they're feeding them at the dinner table. When you start a little child off having a propensity that they expect they should always be eating sugary snacks and fruit juices, do you really think they're not going to have that as a habit by the time they're 6 or 7? They are. As a parent, you actually have the ability to give your child not only an adult life free of disease but even an extra 10 or 15 years added to their lifetime. What parent wouldn't want to give that to their child?