Spotlight on Mieke van Spanje
I am now 63 years old and I am morbidly obese.
I was born as a rather large baby but became obese at age 6, after a serious disease.
My first diet was when I was 17. I lost 35 kilos, but gained 40 over the next years. When I stopped smoking another 15 kilos were added.
Is this who I am? Unfortunately my weight is a large part of my personality. So yes, this is who I am.
But I am also: single, a social worker professional, and a pensioner since age 38. I worked as a volunteer in several organisations, such as the Dutch version of OxFam, our local Cultural Centre and of course the Dutch Obesity Society.
I am rather shy and clumsy on social media. However I read the messages.
I have a sister and a nephew and niece; they are my closest relatives.
Where do you live?
I live in Roermond, a small city in the very south of the Netherlands. I live alone in my own house with a garden and nice neighbours.
Can you please share some of your interests with us?
I love opera and science fiction (books more than movies), for example The Vorkosigan Saga.
I cannot imagine a live without opera or other music. My favourites are classical music (though no Bach however!), world music and almost every opera composer from Monteverdi up to Philip Glass. I think the music is more interesting than the stage performance.
I have an absolute dislike of all music used in gyms to accompany exercise. (I often wonder if I
would like to exercise more if it were accompanied by better music!)
I love to travel and go on holidays in cities. I feel more safe and comfortable there than in the
countryside. I find it fascinating to see the way cities, houses, factories, farms or roads are built
and how humans influence the environment. I love to swim but I hate to go to a swimming pool.
Please share with us what your personal experience of obesity been like.
Obesity is a chronic disease. Some people may be (over a period) free from the visible
characteristics, but the disease is still there.
Accepting this is very hard, mostly because the society around us keeps focusing on nonacceptance and on weight loss.
My mother, however much she loved me, gave me the idea that being obese was wrong and ugly. It took me almost 50 years to overcome this and start appreciating myself. These kinds of opinions of obesity marked my life in a very negative way. And I hate to see that this is the case with so many people.
Please tell us how you currently advocate for patients and hope to support people who experience obesity in the future. Do you have advice to share?
Accept yourself and your obesity. That can be a new starting point for your life and the way you
can address the world.
One can only influence other people to accept, respect and appreciate you if you accept, respect and appreciate yourself, just the way you are. I do not want to say that you should stop loosing weight. That is absolutely every one’s personal decision.
On an individual level we should start accepting obesity as a part of our lives, even when it is no
longer visible to the world outside. I want to focus on personal acceptance and Health At Every
We need rights for the obese, not only as patients but as members of our society.