TLC’s new reality show premiered last night. Called “One Big Happy Family” it chronicles a family of four in North Carolina, The Coles, in which everyone is obese. Hearing about this concept made me uncomfortable as it sets off “exploitative” bells. Savannah resident Ruby Gettinger has a reality show on The Style Network and from what I’ve seen it’s a sympathetic look into what a very large person has to go through. If handled well this show could be similar. It’s probably full of scripted moments meant to highlight their “otherness” however, like the clip available on Radar in which the Coles realize they’re too big to go on a ride at a water park. I think we can safely assume that the outing was set up by producers to ramp up the drama.
The show has really changed the Cole family’s outlook and health and they’re all losing weight and eating more fruits and vegetables now. In an interview with Radar, they talk about their new healthy lifestyle. The Cole family is made up of mom Tameka, 36, 380 lbs, dad Norris, 41, 340 lbs, daughter Amber, 16, at 348 lbs and son Shayne, 14, 308 lbs. They have all lost a good deal of weight and those may be their “before” weights, I can’t tell. TLC doesn’t have a website page for “One Big Happy Family” yet. Maybe they’re airing some pilot shows and waiting to see if there’s enough interest in a full season.
In an exclusive interview with RadarOnline.com the Coles spill about what they are doing to shed the weight, how they have changed their lives and eating habits and how much they have lost already.
The Coles say that they have drastically changed their lifestyle and eating habits after Shane was diagnosed as being borderline diabetic. Tameka says it was the wake-up call they all needed, “We decided that we were all going to get healthier, to pull together as a family, let’s face it, we needed it!”
Now in place of a sugary, high carb diet of pancakes and candy and pies the Coles are shopping at local farmers’ markets and replacing the junk with nutritious, organic food. Gone are the days of eating out at fast food restaurants five times a week, and Tameka says, “We’ve drastically changed portion sizes and there’s no junk food in the house at all. Norm even threw his big old fryer away.”
Typical day of food now? Bowl of Cheerios for breakfast, spinach wrap for lunch and grilled chicken and veggies for dinner. In addition the Coles are exercising for the first time in years, starting off with family walks, gym sessions, basketball and progressing eventually, Norris hopes, to cycling and maybe even a marathon!
And with their new diet comes a new philosophy, Norris says, “I’m teaching the kids to eat right, to look after their bodies, to live right.”
It’s not an easy transition for the family. Amber admits that it’s tough, saying, “You have this image of yourself and you think you’re never going to change and then you start changing and you have to adjust, that’s hard.” Tameka says, “This is a struggle for us, every day is a struggle for us, but we keep each other motivated and we have to keep going.
And changing they are! Norris has lost 56lbs already, Tameka a whopping 67lbs, Shayne 40lbs and Amber 60lbs.
Although they’re all about healthy eating and exercise these days, the Coles still miss some aspects of the good old days. Tameka says she misses “fries” Shayne misses “generally potatoes”, Amber “lasagne” and Norris misses “the fried chicken I used to make.”
Amber says the motivator for doing the show was “We want to show people they are not alone, because there are others in our position. We don’t want people to think they’re the only ones because they’re not.”
That’s really nice that they hope to help other people. I’ve only seen three clips from the show, the two that are here and the one on Radar, but I have a good impression of the family. They surely share an eating disorder but they also seem close knit and supportive. The clip below of their “truth night” is really cute and they seem to all get along well. There’s still something exploitive about the show, but if it ultimately helps them that’s what counts I guess. As Dustin Rowles on Pajiba notes, there’s a real joy in seeing people lose weight on “The Biggest Loser” and this could have a similar outcome. The question is – how long will this show last and what toll will it take on The Coles? They may lose a lot of weight and gain years on their lives, but will the mom and dad break up from all the stress?
Update: Here’s the Cole Family on The Today Show. They’re so nice!