In R.I., a childhood obesity program that works

Tyler Sumner
Tyler Sumner
CBS News

(CBS News) A judge in San Francisco last week dismissed a lawsuit that sought to block McDonald's from including toys with its "happy meals." The suit said the toy giveaway contributes to childhood obesity.

About 17-percent of American kids are considered obese. For possible solutions, CBS News correspondent Drew Levinson reports that some a looking at a new program in Rhode Island as a possible answer to the problem.

Tyler Sumner loves to play basketball, but a year ago, he could barely make it up and down the court.

At 7 years old, he was 110 pounds, nearly double the normal weight for a boy his age. He had trouble breathing. He was also at risk for diabetes. His parents, Mike and Kim, didn't know what to do.

"I didn't want him to be another statistic of having child obesity. I didn't want that to be his life," Kim says.

"He would come home, his feelings would be hurt. He would say, 'Dad, I just want to be like everybody else,' or 'Dad, I just don't feel that great today,' or 'I'm tired,'" Mike says.

They enrolled Tyler at the Greater Providence YMCA's "Join For Me" program, sponsored by the insurance company United Health Care. Kids learn about nutrition: fruit not potato chips; grilled food, not fried; and small portions, not large. Director Cindy McDermott says the parents are included because most kids learn their eating habits at home.

"People think that children won't eat fruits and vegetables, they don't like those foods. They do like those foods. They need to be exposed to them, and learn that they're actually better for their body," Cindy says.

Tyler lost 11 pounds during the program, and has kept up the healthy habits since it ended. He's now lost a total of 20 pounds, and he's no longer at risk for diabetes.

"I want to say, 'Thank you mom and dad for getting me into this program, and I love you,'" Tyler says.

Tyler's mom says the program has changed him.

"When he's out there running, he's not coming to us saying 'I can't breathe.' You know, it's nice to sit on the sidelines and watch your kid do what he's always wanted to do," Kim says.

The Rhode Island program is an experiment, but it's been a successful one. "Join for Me" will soon be available to kids - and parents - in Texas and Louisiana.