shopify analytics ecommerce

Joan Lunden: Raising Healthy Kids

Joan Lunden is accustomed to blazing her own trail. As the longest-running host on early morning television, Lunden greeted millions of Americans each day on ABC-TV’s Good Morning America for nearly two decades (1980 to 1997). During that time, this Emmy winner reported from 26 countries and covered four presidents, five Olympics and two royal weddings.

Oh, and along the way she had three babies while sharing her pregnancies on national television, something practically unheard of at the time. Lunden’s openness about her priorities, such as breastfeeding and bringing her babies to work, may have been the impetus for workplace change as mothers across the country realized that they, too, wanted to make family their priority while still maintaining their careers.

Perhaps that’s why now Lunden is perfectly comfortable blazing a new trail as one of a growing number of “older” mothers who choose to have babies later in life. Lunden and her second husband, summer camp owner Jeff Konigsberg, are parents to twins Kate and Max, born on June 10, 2003, through surrogate mother Deborah Bolig. The couple welcomed their second set of twins, Kimberly and Jack, through Bolig in March 2005.

“Twins are always in the cards when you do in vitro and have multiple embryos,” Lunden says. “I feel like I’m living on Noah’s Ark. They’re coming two by two!”
Joan Lunden-Raising Healthier Kids the Second Time Around

With a focus on raising her second generation of kids even healthier than the first, Lunden has released a new book, co-authored by pediatrician Dr. Myron Winick. Growing Up Healthy: A Complete Guide to Childhood Nutrition and Well-Being, Birth Through Adolescence (Simon and Schuster/Atria Books, 2004) helps parents prevent disease in their children through a direct link to their diet.

“When I read [Dr. Winick’s study] results and I saw definitive links that the amount of fat, trans fat, the amount of fruits and vegetables that a child eats and the kind of eating habits we develop in that child will either predispose them or possibly prevent them from getting specific chronic diseases as an adult, I thought that was mind boggling,” Lunden says. “I said, ‘This information has to get out there in a major way.'”

Motherhood the First Time Around
Lunden has three daughters from a previous marriage: Jamie Krauss, Lindsay Krauss, and Sarah Krauss. Lunden notes that while her kids were her priority the first time around, she didn’t know as much about nutrition and raising healthy kids as she does now.
Joan Lunden-Raising Healthier Kids the Second Time Around

“Thank God they are healthy, fit, active girls that eat incredibly well, considering that I didn’t have this kind of knowledge when they were growing up,” Lunden says. “I think I have imparted a lot of information to my older daughters, and I have insisted that they all read the book.”

As the daughter of a cancer surgeon Lunden was always interested in health, but it wasn’t until she realized her own health was in jeopardy that she took positive action. She points to her own fitness “metamorphosis” as a turning point in her life.

“When I got divorced, I went through my own personal fitness odyssey,” Lunden says. “I knew forever that I needed to lose weight. Each baby you lose most of the weight, but not all of it – that last 15 pounds. I had three children. Three times 15 is 45 – I was 45 to 50 pounds overweight.”

Lunden says it was easy to hide the weight through a creative wardrobe. But she couldn’t hide the reality from herself.

Joan Lunden-Raising Healthier Kids the Second Time Around
“I looked at a magazine one day and I saw ‘Fit, Fabulous and 40,’ and I was turning 39,” she remembers. The clincher was having a guest from the American Heart Association on Good Morning America provide a health assessment test. “As I am sitting listening to this guy ask the questions, I am thinking to myself, as I am on the air live, ‘Oh my God, I am failing this test; I have a lot of these health risks; I want to be around for my kids; I want to be fit, fabulous and 40,'” she says.

That’s when she decided she would give herself one year to get healthy. “I approached it like a job,” she says. “I got myself a nutritionist. I got myself a trainer. I really learned about nutrition. And I learned to reduce my body fat, to replace muscle with fat.”

Joan Lunden-Raising Healthier Kids the Second Time AroundLunden also learned the importance of making exercise less of a chore and more about fun. “I went to a gym that was fantastic because they insisted that you sign up for a sport like marathon running, white water rafting or mountain climbing,” she says. “You immediately became an athlete in training. It’s fun to think of yourself as an athlete in training, and it’s not so fun to think, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to go to the gym today ’cause otherwise I am not going to fit in my pants.'”

Lunden signed up for mountain climbing and ended up climbing the Grand Tetons. “It was so incredibly hard, and I remember standing in the parking lot when we got back down thinking, ‘I can’t even believe I just did that,'” she says. “There were times that I said there is no way I can go any farther, and then I said to myself, ‘You have to want it more than you’re afraid of it.’ And I wanted it more than I was afraid of it and I said to myself afterwards, ‘Wow, if you can push yourself that much farther in that area of your life than you thought you could, what other things can you do?’ I became a person that runs in the race instead of watching the race.”

Lunden believes her family has benefited from her odyssey into good health, but she was careful not to overdo it. “I had young, pre-pubescent girls, so it was never about fitting into a size 8 instead of a size 12 or a size 14,” she says. “It was about making my heart healthy, making my blood vessels healthy, it was about being able to run around with them, and run in a race, and being able to live longer and not have disease. And they grew up with that message.”

Motherhood the Second Time Around
Lunden believes her journey has led her to a place in her life where she can share her passion for family and health with those she loves the most. She married Konigsberg in April 2000, knowing he wanted a family.

Joan Lunden-Raising Healthier Kids the Second Time AroundFeeling she wasn’t done having children, and wanting to share that experience with him, the couple embarked on another odyssey – the struggle to overcome infertility. Despite years of trying to conceive naturally and then through in vitro fertilization, the couple could not conceive. Because they wanted a genetic link to their children, surrogacy seemed like the ideal option for them and, working through a reputable agency in Los Angeles, they met Bolig, and their baby dreams came true – twice.

“When you put them down, they are in two different directions – they are like my own little personal tornados. They can trash a room in five minutes,” Lunden says of toddler twins Kate and Max. “I think about last summer, we had them up in Maine, where Jeff has his camps, and they were like little guppies. I carried them around. This summer, they were running everywhere! It really does happen fast.”

Armed with the knowledge she has gained about child nutrition, Lunden makes conscious choices about what she puts into her kids’ bodies. “These children eat cantaloupe, papaya, blueberries, bananas, apples, oranges, peaches and pears, and right from the time when they were just starting to eat,” she says. “They have a wonderful little fruit feeder that they can put all the fruit inside a little net and the net screws onto a little handle and they can hold the handle and chomp on that fruit before they have teeth and get all the nutrients and get the flavor but you don’t have to be worried about them choking. The bottom line is developing a love of fruits and vegetables at the earliest age possible.”

Joan Lunden-Raising Healthier Kids the Second Time AroundIf a child still has not developed that taste, Lunden notes that it is never too late. “Some people will think, ‘I have a 12-year-old, I passed up my chance,'” she says. “No, you did not. That is a cop out. If your child is 2, if they’re 8, if they’re 12, if they’re 16, if they’re 21, 24 – it’s not too late.”

Lunden’s older girls did not grow up eating fruits and veggies, but they do so now. “I am much more cognizant,” Lunden says. “I am a label reader and I am looking for it all the time. I am looking for trans fats. I am also very cognizant of things like hormones. I’m going to make sure I don’t subject my children to it.”

As for moms and dads who think their kids should dictate what they eat based on likes and dislikes, Lunden reminds them that parents are in control. “We are the parents – we make the decisions,” she says. “We can either buy the white bread or the whole wheat bread. We are the ones that establish the likes and food dislikes in our children.”

As for fitness, Lunden makes sure she gets in her own workout, and then extends it to the family. “I like going to my Pilates classes and my spinning and cardio classes, and I hike and I play tennis all the time,” she says. “I am so much more fit and I think I am physically younger today than I was 10 years ago, and certainly more than I was 20 years ago. I joke that 20 years ago I married a guy 39 years old and then 20 years later I married another guy who was 39 years old – and the second one is much better suited to me.”

Joan Lunden-Raising Healthier Kids the Second Time AroundKonigsberg is an integral part of the family’s healthy lifestyle. As owner of Takajo summer camp for boys and Tripp Lake camp for girls, both near Portland, Maine, his career has centered on active kids. “Jeff has devoted his entire life to shaping young people’s lives and helping them be active, happy, productive and congenial,” Lunden says. “He feels that teaching kids to be good sports is as important as teaching them to be good at sports. That is very much the essence of Jeff.”

Lunden and Konigsberg believe kids should be brought up thinking fitness is fun. Lunden enjoys taking the twins out in the jog stroller and the backyard is set up for physical play. “I am out there with them and running around and we have all of our little toys out there,” she says.

In the end, Lunden says we hold our health in our hands. “I believe our lives are shaped by the choices that we make. We are in control of our future,” Lunden says. “I made a decision to marry a guy who wanted to have a family because I still wanted to do that. I’m outside running around with my kids and I love it. I want to be bicycling with them, I want to be hiking with them and I plan on playing every sport as they grow up. That is what keeps me young. That is what will keep them fit and make their lives longer. It is what will make my life longer.”