May 7th, 2013
07:48 AM ET
12 months ago

Christie reveals weight loss surgery

Washington (CNN) - A few months after turning 50 years old, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie secretly underwent lap-band surgery in February for the sake of his wife and kids, a source close to the governor confirmed to CNN.

Christie told the New York Post, which first reported the story early Tuesday morning, that the invasive procedure came after his family and friends urged him to start improving his health.

"I've struggled with this issue for 20 years," he said. "For me, this is about turning 50 and looking at my children and wanting to be there for them."

Christie had the 40 minute long surgery on Saturday, February 16, a source close to Christie tells CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper, and was back to work by the following Tuesday.

His concerns over the "minimally invasive procedure," according to the source, were allayed by the fact that Dr. George Fielding would be operating on him. Fielding has done the procedure many times and even had the surgery himself, the source told Tapper, anchor of CNN's "The Lead."

Although Christie has lost some weight, the source told Tapper, the governor is "not doing any victory laps" and knows this is just the beginning of the weight loss process.

In an interview with the Post, Christie says his surgery was solely for his children and wife, but almost anything the Republican governor does is seen through the lens of a possible presidential run in 2016. Christie, in an interview with the Post, attempted to squash any speculation.

"It's so much more important than that," Christie said. "I know it sounds crazy to say that running for president is minor, but in the grand scheme of things, it was looking at Mary Pat and the kids and going, 'I have to do this for them, even if I don't give a crap about myself.'"

READ MORE: How Christie surgery weighs on 2016

A "tight circle" of top staff knew about the procedure, a source close to the governor told CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.

"They were the right people; he had to make sure a small circle knew. But it was mostly family who knew," the source said, adding the the catalyst was Christie's 50th birthday.

"He had been thinking about it for a while, and working on it (weight loss)" through diet and exercise, the source said. And while the source can't discount the presidential considerations entirely, the source added "this was more about his kids and his family."

Are there any potential downsides?

"Everyone will be watching" as every pound does (or does not) come off, the source said. The upside is that it "humanizes him."

"(The) struggle is something he can talk about," the source added, also noting that when Christie attended the George W. Bush Presidential Center dedication ceremony last month, some noticed he had shed some pounds.

OPINION: Congrats Gov. Christie: You saved your life

Christie's weight has been an issue of fodder for comedians and journalists alike, but primarily because the governor is regularly self-deprecating about the issue.

Earlier this year, while comedian David Letterman was offering a lengthy apology to the governor for all of the weight jokes he had made on his late night comedy show, Christie played along by reaching into his pocket and grabbing a donut.

"I didn't know this was going to take so long," Christie said to the laughing audience. He continued to joke about his weight during the interview, telling Letterman that he is "basically the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen in your life."

In response to the bit, a former White House doctor told CNN National Political Correspondent Jim Acosta that she "winced" at the routine and questioned whether Christie's weight would hold him back on a presidential run.

"I'm worried he may have a heart attack. I'm worried he may have a stroke," former White House physician Connie Mariano, M.D. said in the interview. "It's almost a like a time bomb waiting to happen unless he addresses those issues before running for office."

Mariano, who served nine years as a doctor in the White House medical unit said Christie's obesity would certainly become an issue should he run for the presidency in 2016. She warned a future President Christie could suffer from potentially deadly complications from diabetes, sleep apnea, and heart disease.

In response, Christie said unless Mariano has given him a physical exam, "she should shut up."

"The idea that somehow, you know, I don't care about this – of course I care about it. And I am making the best effort I can," Christie said at a press conference before he had the surgery in February.

"In terms of people in the state being concerned about whether or not it prevents me from being able to do my job effectively, I think they've seen the results of that," Christie said.

Christie's weight was in issue in his 2009 run for governor, when he defeated Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine. Christie's girth was portrayed unflatteringly in campaign ads by Corzine's campaign. But Christie's weight has not been an issue as he runs this year for re-election to a second term. A Quinnipiac University poll of New Jersey voters conducted in March indicated that 68% of Garden State voters were comfortable with an overweight candidate, with just 17% holding reservations.

Lap-band surgery entails a doctor fitting a band around the stomach in order to make the organ smaller. It helps people lose weight because as someone eats, the smaller stomach feels fuller faster, thereby cutting down on the amount of food someone consumes. As the lap-band recipient loses weight, doctors can add saline to the band to shrink the stomach even more.

The surgery is considered a less dangerous alternative to gastric bypass, where a doctor shrinks the size of a stomach by dividing the stomach into two using staples.

In July 2012, Christie told ABC that gastric bypass was "too risky" of a surgery for him.

– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story.


Filed under: 2016 • Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (351 Responses)
  1. Drew22

    Why is the weight a problem for all of you? In the Fattest country in the world kind of makes sense we would have the fattest president in the world. Do you guys think that because the Pres. Smokes and Christie is Fat that they will not be able to run a country? Will Christie Trade Nuks for a donut and Obama close schools down for a drag of someones cigg? Will they both stand next to the launch codes and go "OMG I CANT NOT PUSH IT". Doubtful. Why dont we worry about the non-cosmitic stuff... and if you cant... go read a magazine and fawn over the models.

    May 7, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  2. Anonymous

    The fact of the matter is, this is proof he will throw his hat in the ring for the 2016 Presidential race. He knew he would not stand a chance of running opr winning being obese. America does not need a fat President.

    May 7, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  3. Malloy

    Going to run for president. The only reason he did it. He knows a man as fat as he cannot become president. Therefore, he did it for his children. I agree, he wants his kids to have a president for a father.

    May 7, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  4. John

    I'm a Democrat, who thinks this is great. I know a couple of people that have done this procedure, and over time it literally changed their lives. Let me clarify "Democrat". I tend to vote for individual thinkers that don't necessarily go with the crowd. I'm a fiscal conservative, who could care less who gets married to whom, I'm a staunch believer in the death penalty (But only in cases where it's absolutely positive – DNA can prove the case, or something like the guy that went into the batman movie), I believe in a woman's right to choose. I'll never find a politician or probably anybody else that thinks the same as me in everything. But, Christie seems to do what he thinks is right, and also seems like a straight shooter. I would definitely not rule out voting for him. Gooooo, Christie!!!

    May 7, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  5. longtooth

    As an Obama voter, I wish Gov. Christie well in his effort. He's the closest thing I've seen to an honest, down-to-earth republican, an increasingly rare breed.

    May 7, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  6. mitchgam

    Allowing ones self to become and stay obese is a sign of lack of self control and self respect.

    The fact that this man couldn't or wouldn't make the personal sacrifices necessary to control his own weight and needed to rely on surgery says a lot about his character.

    May 7, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  7. coastalcane

    What about William Howard Taft? I remember history and he was president, and weighed 300+ pounds. Weight should have nothing to do with the arguement of running a country. Just glad that he made the decision to go through with the surgery for his family.

    May 7, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  8. Hogarth

    A: It doesn't matter how fat or skinny a person is as far as their suitability to be President. B: I wish Governor Christie well.

    May 7, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  9. Emily

    Someone made a comment about voting for a President with no self-control. Obama smokes. Clinton cheated. Every President is HUMAN and humans are not infallible.

    May 7, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  10. GonzoinHouston

    I could care less about his weight, but realistically, if he runs, he has to have a better VP choice than the last two. That's what made Sister Sarah so terrifying; given McCain's age, there was a small but reasonable chance that she would become the President.

    May 7, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  11. bcrunner

    I watched his speech at the RNC and I don't like Governor Christie. That said, I think he did the right thing at least for himself and his family. He should be around to see his children grow up. We all have vices... The president gave up smoking. Who knows... He may have accepted some help to get there.. I don't have a problem with people getting help to control a problem...

    May 7, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  12. ru serious

    A very good man, a voice of reason in today's ugly partisan wars. Wish him the very best and if he does run, I'd vote for him in a minute.

    May 7, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  13. Miguel

    Good Luck Gov. I honestly hope it bring you peace. I know the self esteem leve of an obese person rises in remarkable ways and I'm glad he is aforded the opertunity to not only improve for his family, but for himself. It is a good thing. I am a Democrate, but politics has nothing to do with this, Hell, I like the guy. I dont throw stones at people who are trying to do somthing positive for themselves at the cost of no one but themselves. I will be watching the transformation that I know he will be eagerly awaiting and searching for.

    May 7, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  14. Deb

    I'm not a Republican, but I think Gov. Christie will make an excellent president...He is an honest man and speaks his mind and letting the chips fall where they may. I like him!!!

    May 7, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  15. no nothing

    Good for him, brave enough to enter a hospital where 1 out of 20 pick up some drug resistant strain infection.

    May 7, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  16. BoThome

    There have been fat US Presidents in the past, why is this an issue today?

    I'm more concerned about the 80+ year old congressmen that look and act like they are already dead and buried who are making all these ridiculous policies and stalling our economic growth to try and get another 2 to 4 years of power before they kick.

    May 7, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  17. Eastender

    Well good for him. I know several folks who have had this procedure, and its drastically improved their lives. And trust me, it's not the easy way out as many say. It's a long and difficult process to get the weight off - it's not magic.

    May 7, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  18. Andrea

    For all of you stating that we would never have a fat president, we have already had one! President Taft was quite large and in fact he even got stuck in the White House bathtub! Get over looks and elect someone for their work...

    May 7, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  19. Edwin

    Why would the White House doctor say *anything* about this? She's not his physician – and if she were, it would be even worse. I am a democrat, and I think it is very unprofessional of her.

    I think this has to do with Christie's family, not his career ambitions. As an overweight man who turned 50 last year, I understand his argument perfectly. If it benefits his career, great – but the real reason he would do this is to be alive longer for his family. Being fat – especially for men – wreaks havoc on your entire body, not just your heart. Being obese increases your risk of most types of cancer, too, in ways that are only just starting to be understood.

    May 7, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  20. Anonymous

    Matt from CT. How dare you! Shame, Shame, Shame! You bashed Gov. Christie and say that he should not be in office. Matt what makes you so perfect? Where do you fall short in your life? Short...in terms of having outsiders, if they had they say, would say that you don't measure up? Is it the ability to use constraints when you post? Is it holding down a job? The way you treat others...I know you are hiding something. Put your life out front to be magnified 24 hours. The world would find something. I admire Gov. Christie for the courage to get this procedure. It is a safer method than drugs. I want to see his career last a long time, I want to see him prosper and be in good health. Put your picture on the web and your life. If you have no sins, don't cast any stones at this man. By the way, I'm trying to lose 45 lbs. Throw a stone at me...I don't care.

    May 7, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  21. nilla

    Secret surgery! I smell a cover-up! We need to impeach every single Republican, just in case.

    May 7, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  22. ROCKWOOD

    This has no business even being in the news.......it's his decision. Good for him.

    May 7, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  23. Steve

    Why don't CNN try talking about something important like Benghazi!!

    May 7, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  24. Dave

    CNN – gastric bypass involves surgically making the stomach into 2 pouches, and connecting the smaller pouch to the small intestine. The gastric sleeve involves stapling the stomach and making a smaller "pouch". Small detail error that I wouldn't have expected from CNN.

    They are all tools in the fight against obesity. There is no magic bullet.

    May 7, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  25. dean morse

    Perhaps we could leave the politics out of this and just let the man take care of himself. He has a lot of work to do. And I am a gay Democratic bleeding heart Gay liberal. Good Luck Gov. christie.

    May 7, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
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