February 5th, 2013
04:14 PM ET
10 years ago

Former WH doc on Christie: 'I'm worried about this man dying in office'

Washington (CNN) – Potential 2016 presidential candidate Chris Christie may be able to take the punch lines about his waistline. The popular New Jersey governor made light of his weight in an appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman" Monday night.

"I'm basically the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen in your life," Christie joked.

But one medical expert on presidential health cautioned Christie's obesity is no laughing matter.

"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 an interview with CNN.

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And, in fact, Christie acknowledges as much as recently as Tuesday when asked about his Late Show appearance.

"I have been remarkably healthy. My doctor continues to warn me my luck is going to run out relatively soon. So, believe me, it is something that I am very conscious of," Christie said.

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.

"It's almost a like a time bomb waiting to happen unless he addresses those issues before running for office," Mariano said.

During the 1990's, Mariano helped then-President Bill Clinton in his own struggles with losing weight. She recalled how Saturday Night Live once lampooned Mr. Clinton as an insatiable junk food addict, pounding Big Macs from McDonalds.

After Clinton stumbled on some steps and tore a quadriceps tendon, Mariano said she worked with the White House chef and a personal trainer to help the president lose nearly 30 pounds.

All of that explains why Mariano winced when she saw Christie munch on a donut while waiting for Letterman to ask a question to the delight of a studio audience Monday night. She said her words of caution should not be viewed through any partisan lens.

"I'm a Republican. I like Chris Christie. I want him to run. I just want him to lose weight," Mariano said. "I'm a physician more than I'm a Democrat or Republican. And I'm worried about this man dying in office."

In Union, New Jersey Tuesday following a meeting with Hurricane Sandy victims, the 50 year old governor also told reporters he has a plan to get in shape.

"Be assured there is a plan. Whether it's successful or not, you'll all be able to notice," Christie said.

The governor shrugged off the notion that he is not taking his health seriously.

"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.

Christie's office tweeted out the comments in a video link to the governor's followers on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.

Mariano said Christie could set a good example for the nation's growing population of obese children and teen-agers.

"He could actually save lives out there if he turned around and did something with his weight and became healthy," Mariano said.

After serving both Democratic and Republican presidents, Mariano said she is offering her medical advice to Christie in large part because he remains a strong potential contender for the White House.

"I'm dead serious," she said.

Filed under: 2016 • Chris Christie
soundoff (166 Responses)
  1. conoclast

    I'm an Obama democrat and I really like Gov. Christie's candor; he is an antidote for tea-party latent fascism. But there are two words he ought to be increasingly familiar with: morbid obesity. Let's face it, overweight as he is his choice for veep in a presidential election would be critical; let's hope he's not another McCain! So lose the donuts and the fat jokes, Guv! Until we see you get serious about your own affliction how can we get serious about you?

    February 6, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  2. Lindalou

    He's the only republican this dem would even consider.

    February 6, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  3. Ron Yaffe

    I would urge the Govenor not to follow my path. In March 2011, I was gaining too much weight. Finally after my wife had urge me to see my doc, I went. He sent me to the hospital where I was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Faiilure. After a two week period to lose fluid, I had Cardiac By Pass Surgery (a Five Bypass), This was no picnic and since I am 60 pounds lighter and exercise four times weekly. I would NEVER want the Govenor or anyone else to go through this kind of surgery. Take control of your health before it takes control of you!

    February 6, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  4. ShawnDH

    A lot of people struggle with their weight and this does not make Chris Christie a bad person, but he clearly very unhealthy and it's a real concern should he run for president...especially considering Republicans' current trend of picking absolute nutball extremists for the VP position.

    February 6, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  5. SteveS

    Leave the man and his donuts alone. There are plenty of healthy overweight people. A recent study even showed that they may live longer.

    February 6, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  6. The Real Tom Paine


    REALLY? I work in an office with a bunch of Tri-athletes. There is no other conversation EVER unless it focuses on what to eat, when to eat, how to eat...blah blah. They complain about fat people and all the money they cost us on our insurance plan. GUESS WHAT? The runners are the ones who use our insurance, not the fat people. I am in HR so I know. Torn ligaments, knee replacement, various surgeries, physical therapy, etc. It's not just one of them, but all of them have been injured over the couse of three years. All you fat-haters, what have you done for your communities? Everyone dies, whether they have a heart attack or are hit by a car while biking or running! Get over yourselves.
    Everythign you describe is something that people who are overweight suffer from. My wife's family all suffer from orthopedic and heart problems that are a direct result of their being obese. People who suffer from chronic overuse injuries are not the norm, and using triathletes as representative of those who chose to exercise is misleading, to say the least. No one talks about runners clogging our nation's healthcare system, but people who chose an unhealthy lifestyle are clogging it like arterial placque. If you feel self-conscious because you choose not to be fit, that is your fault. Your post is filled with anger because you know that by being healthy, they contribute more by being a good example than you are. In the meantime, I'm getting ready to hit the gym during my lunch so I can enjoy being active when I am older. Get over yourself, or better still, get healthy so we don't have to pay for you.

    February 6, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  7. Sniffit

    "TRENDING: Former WH doc on Christie: 'I'm worried about this man dying in office'"

    Tranding: Sane portion of Amurika on Christie: We're worried about this man BEING in office.


    February 6, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  8. Woman In California

    Dr. Mariano said almost the same things I did yesterday with one exception, I am NOT worried about his weight. If he's not intelligent enough to know something has to change – and fast, he'll have to find out the hard way. Oh well, I've got my own business to attend to.

    February 6, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  9. Kent

    Christie is long on barroom style bluster, just like GWB, so it's a little soon for another one but Christie does at least have a serious side that occasionally makes sense.

    February 6, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  10. Pete

    Christie the rino is going to find it tough going doing an election run nationwide,states aren't even close to the severity that presidencial campaigning is..Campaigning in multiple states in just hours or days is tough even on someone as fit as Pres.Obama and could pose risks for someone with Christies weight issues..He'd definitly could use a stomach band, a minor surgery required for someone of his girth and he'd definitly will knock off the pounds because he'll be campaigning instead of eating ..He's a good man to see having a heart attack at such a young age and this is from a democrate that hopes he switches parties because he's just too good to be a republican and even they know it as well!!

    February 6, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  11. JoeyAce

    Two Words... Jim Fixx

    February 6, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  12. Christian W.

    KB – I hope you are joking. I would much rather undergo reparative surgery for a knee, ankle, etc. than be diagnosed with a chronic illness such as diabetes, heart failure, etc. Blaming our nation's health problems on healthy people is completely absurd and far from reality. You really need to 1) do some research and 2) stop lying to yourself if you don't think that obesity is an epidemic in our country that amounts to billions in unnecessary health care costs.

    February 6, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  13. iluvpurple

    Eh, I'm not worried about his weight at all. If he wins the Republican nomination next year, he will have my vote either way. This is coming from someone that voted for Obama too!

    February 6, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    -KB ranted:

    REALLY? I work in an office with a bunch of Tri-athletes. There is no other conversation EVER unless it focuses on what to eat, when to eat, how to eat...blah blah. ... ... ...
    Look on the bright side. They could be talking about something really annoying like politics, religion, or both.

    February 6, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  15. Tim

    It is stunning what passes for news in the lame-stream media.

    February 6, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  16. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Christie has young children and it's important he focus on his health for his children first before he focuses on running a country. There is no solid proof that an obese person is healthy unless they are compared to someone who is more obese than them. I like Christie but I agree with doc and we can't compare his weight with past presidents who weren't under the media eye as todays presidents and this job is more than demanding. greying of presidents hair is visual proof.

    February 6, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
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