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Aubrey Dewey had lost hope. And not just hope at being able to lose weight. She had lost hope in life. When you ask her what she would tell her younger self now that she’s on the other side of her weight-loss surgery, her words are full of grace and empathy.

Aubrey’s strength and wisdom are apparent, and we see that this journey was about so much more than reclaiming her physical body; it was and continues to be, about re-establishing her sense of self-worth and self-love.

“I would first look at [my younger self] who is in so much pain and has lost all hope for anything better in life and tell her that she’s worth this effort [of weight-loss]. I would tell her that it’s okay to move forward. Healing doesn’t equal forgetting the one that was taken from you. I would tell her that freedom from a body that has become a prison feels better than she could ever begin to imagine. I would tell her that she absolutely can do this and that she’s going to see just how strong she really is.” 

Aubrey gained this perspective through her work with the community at the Sentara Weight Loss Surgery Center at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. The program became a safe space for Aubrey where she found the courage to face the intense pain that spurred her weight-gain.

Unlike many people who have life-long struggles with obesity, Aubrey spent most of her life at a normal weight. It was the murder of her younger brother which brought such intense grief into her life that she gained 170 pounds. At her peak before surgery, she weighed 340 pounds. For ten years, food was her haven, and her weight was a survival mechanism.

“My entire world crumbled beneath me [after the loss of my brother]. I could eat myself into a comfortable numb.”  

Though the people in her personal life were always supportive and loving, that wasn’t true in her professional work as a nurse. Professionally, Aubrey felt the sting and stigma of being overweight.

“People automatically assumed I was less intelligent, lazy, and ultimately of less value than people who are not obese.” 

Aubrey not only felt discriminated at work but also when she was in public doing activities such as shopping.

“When I was morbidly obese, a saleswoman once took it upon herself to tell me that there were no clothes in my size and perhaps I should look elsewhere.”

At Aubrey’s lowest emotional valley, she didn’t care if she lived or died. She woke up every day hating herself. Then she saw a picture of a friend who had weight-loss surgery, and her friend was entirely transformed inside and out. This prompted her to investigate the different weight-loss surgery options, and to learn about the process before, during, and after surgery.

That one small step brought her to Dr. Denis Halmi, a pioneer in the field of weight-loss surgery and the Medical Director of the Sentara Weight Loss Surgery Center. Her decision to have bariatric surgery was more than a medical choice; it was a commitment to make peace with her past, change the present, and walk confidently into the future.

Aubrey puts it best when she says, “I am no longer existing. I am living. That is truly the core of it; it’s nothing short of a miracle. I enjoy life now.”

Surgery isn’t for everyone. To learn if you qualify, head over to, there you can watch our informational videos and take a self-assessment to discover if weight loss surgery is right for you. Or you can call 1-800-SENTARA to learn more.

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