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Via: charlotteobserver.com

One Big Happy Family

9 and 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays, TLC network

Meet the Coles – Dad Norris, Mom Tameka, daughter Amber and son Shayne – the stars of “One Big Happy Family.”

The show, which debuted Tuesday night, chronicles the lives of the family, who live in Indian Trail in Union County.

On the phone before the premiere, the Coles are a personable group. Mom Tameka says they’ve just come home from the gym.

Are they ready for reality show fame?

“I don’t think so,” says Tameka.

They also hadn’t seen any episodes. “Yes, we’re a little nervous,” Tameka says. “All we know is what we said and what we did. But we’re very confident in TLC and the production company. We just decided to do what we do and do ourselves.”

The original concept was to show what it’s like for the morbidly obese to navigate the world. TLC found the Coles, Tameka says, on Norris’ MySpace page, which had pictures of the family.

“A producer called and said you have a good-looking family and talked about being on a show,” says Tameka. “I said to Norris, don’t listen to him.”

But it ended up being for real. “They found us marketable. I think of it as a favor from God.”

When word of the show first appeared there was a lot of response, much of it negative. Folks don’t seem to have much empathy for obesity. Tameka says the family talked about that aspect before agreeing to do the show.

“We talked and prayed. That was my main concern,” she says. “But I’ve always felt I’m a certain size and people can see it. We thought maybe it would encourage somebody else. We weren’t trying to lose weight initially.”

Indeed, it’s clear from the first episode that the family is pretty comfortable in their own skins, while acknowledging they are big. This definitely isn’t one of those shows where being overweight is about being miserable.

“That’s the attitude we’ve always had,” says Tameka. “I’ve always told the kids ‘You know you’re overweight, but don’t have low self-esteem.’ I told Amber, make sure your face is pretty and your hair is done. … We’re not unhappy.”

What changed things was a diagnosis that Shayne (who at 308 weighed the least) received, putting him on the verge of type 2 diabetes.

The family united in weight loss to help him.

“It’s very wonderful,” says father Norris. “The weight is coming off. It’s funny, I’ll be leaving the gym and people look at me, surprised. I put my incline at 15 and they say ‘Don’t hurt yourself,’ and they are 15 pounds overweight themselves.”

Amber, too, says she feels a little different. “This happened over the summer so I came back to school a different size so it was good, I felt better. I have more confidence. I have more to lose. I’m getting used to it.”

And, Shayne, who’s a pretty confident young man, says he’s getting compliments. The best part for him?

“We’re all working out.”