Tuesday, March 13, 2012 5:30 pm
CBS Evening News
(CBS News) GUTHRIE, Okla. - 12.5 million children in the U.S. are obese, nearly triple the number in 1980. These children deal with stigma and the risk of serious health problems.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says 85 out of 100 kids with Type II diabetes are obese.
CBS Correspondent Byron Pitts met an Oklahoma boy who refused to be counted and inspired his community along the way.
Concerned with the high rate of obesity, Oklahoma City's mayor put the city on a diet and challenged residents to collectively lose 1 million pounds.
Last month, after four years, the city reached that goal. 12-year-old Mason Harvey, who wasn't part of the campaign because he was too young then, is one of the millions of children in America living with obesity.
For Harvey, a healthy fruit smoothie was not his after school drink of choice a year ago. Back then, the 6th grader weighed 206 pounds. Today he's 85 pounds lighter.
Harvey says the reason he decided to lose weight was because he was being bullied. Starting in the third grade, the other kids would call him names like "fat" and "jelly roll" and push him around.
The more he was teased, the more he ate. His parents Mike and Julie Harvey admit they were unintentional enablers.
"How is it possible that an 11-year-old boy would get up to 206 pounds?" Pitts asked his Mom.
"We never looked at him as fat," Julie Harvey says. "We never called him obese. We never told him, 'Mason you've got to lose weight.'"
But Harvey was fed up with the bullying. So he began to take small steps. He hit the gym, stopped drinking soda pop, burgers and pizza.
Today he eats carrots at school for snacks, with a bit of ranch dressing. He says he can't believe he was 85 pounds heavier.
But Harvey decided not to stop there, he insisted that his parents join him.
"We're not just sleeping in all day, laying around," explains Mike Harvey. "We're getting up, we're moving and it's making us feel better."
His father once weighed more than 324 pounds, now he's down to 298.
Mike Harvey explains, "I have this voice in my head now, that is Mason, and it's constantly telling me things.
"'No! don't quit! Keeep ooooon truckin!," his son chimes in.
That momentum is pushing Mason to convince his friends and neighbors to get healthier. He's organized fitness events to promote awareness of childhood obesity - from laps around the track to victorious "rocky" moments climbing up and down stairs.
"A year ago you were bullied and now it sounds like you're the man at school," Pitts told Mason.
"Getting a lot more friends," Mason said.
Pitts: "I thought you were about to say a lot more girlfriends."
"That's kinda happening too," Mason said.
A year ago he was bullied, today Mason is getting a lot more friends. He didn't just shed weight. He's proving small steps can make big changes.
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