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. Thomas

    Enjoy the Jellyroll !

    He loves being Governor , he couldn't deal with the stress of being President.

    February 5, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  2. penguin

    I have no respect for a doctor who claims an ability to make a medical diagnosis by merely looking at someone. This "doctor" knows nothing about the condition of Mr Christie's heart or anything else about his health. All the doctor knows is that he is overweight- an obvious condition any non-doctor can "diagnose." Whether I vote for him or not will in no way be influenced by how much he weighs

    February 5, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  3. Montanajay

    Lynda, you needn't worry about Christie competing with Obama when the president runs for a third term. The Constitution allow just two terms. If we're talking about Christie and his weight - that is after all, the subject of the article we're commenting on - then perhaps we could consider the effects of his weight on his ability to serve. That is a legitimate concern. And, for those of you who don't like to "legislate morality," please spare us! Nobody is trying to legislate against Christie's donuts.

    February 5, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  4. Pavehawkdoc

    Unfortunately the doctor is not being scientific. Of course Mr. Christie is obese. However, his risk pales in comparison to the smoking history for Pres. Obama. Look it up. She has no more ability to predict whether or not he is going to live through his term in office If he were to become president than I could predict the stock market peak in the next four years. Doctors do a grave disservice to the public when they make exorbitant claims based just on the fact that they possess a medical degree.

    February 5, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  5. Jim

    Regardless of how you feel about Gov. Christie politically, you need not worry about him being nominated for President. Unfortunately for him, image is more important than substance in national elections, and the American people are NEVER going to elect someone who is generally characterized as insensitive, obnoxious, indifferent, and not least of all morbidly obese. Not to mention, most Americans find New Jersey accents painful. I would bet $1000 he can't win a primary in 5 states, if I could find someone to bet the other side.

    February 5, 2013 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  6. Amilee

    Let's face it.... obesity is the only acceptable thing people can use to discriminate against others. Let the man eat his donught in peace, for goodness sake. Christie shouldn't have to justify his weight to anyone, except himself and maybe, to his wife/family. Cigarette smokers and texting drivers have shorter life expectancies.

    February 5, 2013 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  7. twalk

    Christie just looks unhealthy. He reminds me of Humpy Dumpy or a Roly Poly

    February 5, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  8. USA

    I am fat too 🙂

    February 5, 2013 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  9. Thatguy371

    Good advice. Look around. See many old fat people? Didn't think so.

    February 5, 2013 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  10. pazke

    Mind your business, Dr. Mariano. I'm sure he knows the risks.

    February 5, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  11. tiredofbias44

    Democrats are scared. Christie is more respected than Obama could ever be even in his dreams. Since taking office, Christie has made Democrats realize what a loser Corzine was.

    In 2017, the rest of the world will behave like NJ Democrats. They will begin to compare Barry to Chris and realize what a loser Obama is.

    February 5, 2013 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  12. Please

    Whatever let him be. I love Christie and he will be fine. CNN you are just simply stupid.

    February 5, 2013 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  13. Mm

    Not buying the whole 'I'm the healthiest fat man you ever saw' bit. There is absolutely no way a man of Christie's age and weight can not be effecting his health.

    Just hope he will set aside the time and effort to prioritize his health so he can continue on with his work for the people that need him.

    February 5, 2013 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  14. tiredofbias44

    I worry more about Chris Matthews freaking out that Obama cannot serve three terms, grabbing Wayne LaPierre's assault rifle and gunning down Christie in the studio than I do about Christie dying of a heart attack.

    February 5, 2013 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  15. Susan

    Sorry to say that the Guv is in denial...people seem to have forgotten he was hospitalized in 2011 for an asthma attack. It was a hot summer day, and just walking around carrying all that weight can cause exercise-induced asthma. Asthma is serious, sometimes life-threatening. And another point, even if he doesn't have high blood pressure, it would be a lot lower if he dropped the weight. I wish him the best, he's a strong leader and has a great sense of humor.

    February 5, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  16. gwats

    Keep him away from the fried chicken and the buffet line.

    February 5, 2013 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  17. gwats

    Can you really think about conservative values and austerity while staring at THAT waistline? Be honest.

    February 5, 2013 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  18. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    He need to lose weight and to lose the election in November.

    February 5, 2013 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  19. grumpymedic

    I'm a liberal with libertarian leanings. I voted Obama twice. Used to be a Republican until Reagan's second term. Haven't looked back. However, despite that I disagree with him on several things, the man does have a heart and he does seem to have a better grasp of reality than the rest of the GOP clown car (with exception of Ron Paul). He's one of the very few GOP members I will give any attention to. Whether he'd get the nod from his party is another matter entirely. Many of those loons will brand him as a liberal and dump him in the skip like they did Ron Paul. Regardless of all that, I do hope he takes full stock of his weight and health condition becaue gross obesity creates many problems and morbid obesity is just that-morbid. As in DEATH. He could easily become a role model for a lot of people by slimming down and getting in a little better shape. It all begins with simple diet and lifestyle changes. You don't have to hit the gym or the stairmaster or run a million miles right way. That's daunting. I was 260 lbs 1.5 just over a year ago and now am at 202 and I feel MUCH better about myself and my life. I didn't even really DO anything but: 1) stop drinking sodas, 2) drastically reduce my "junk" fast food intake and opt for better choices dining out, 3) drink a lot of fresh water or home-brewed green tea (cold and hot) sweetened by honey or stevia (I also love chai tea), 4) cut out sugar and artificial sweeteners and go with liquid stevia, blue agave and honey, 5) Eat a nice, delicious meal that's filling which in turn gives me no desire to eat dessert right away. I find I don't miss sweets after a nice dinner. 6) stop drinking beer and stick with wine, particularly red wine (proven health benefits actually) and 7) WALK or become more ACTIVE (I did it by community volunteering). That's all I did.

    February 5, 2013 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  20. Vincent

    Lead by example Christie.

    "Who cares about his weight. If he wanted to lose it and be healthy, he would, just like any other American."

    The funny thing about this comment is that many Americans dont seem to want to be healthy and lose weight. Christie can lead by example and have high-profile impact. The other thing different with this case is that as a politician, Christie will have the BEST medical care, no expenses spared, all at the taxpayers expense. Does anyone actually believe that the average Americans public healthcare (medicare, medicaid, whatever...) would be anywhere near as comprehensive?

    February 5, 2013 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  21. SN

    Run Christie Run....Forest Gump.

    February 5, 2013 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  22. NorCalMojo

    This from the same editors that were pushing Hillary Clinton last week. Has Christie ever skipped out on his duties for weeks because of medical reasons?

    CNN has gone off the deep end. They don't even make a pretense of objectivity anymore.

    February 5, 2013 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  23. Paul

    Once again, godlike pronouncements from Doctors that everyone fits in the same mold. It is very likely Christie's luck willl NOT run out. I have been 200+ lbs. since elementary school and am currently where I have been since High School – 300 lbs +/- 10. I am 65; eat a dairy and meat rich diet. like sweets and eschew fruits and vegetables. I was a drinker and smoker until 8 years ago when I decided to stop for non-physical health reasons. BP = 120/90; am at the low normal for bad cholestrol and my blood sugar is dead on normal. I tested negative for apnea. I have outlived 5 doctors that have told me thru the years that I I would die in a few years if I did not lose weight. So....

    February 5, 2013 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  24. Cheryl

    No one is saying Christie has to lose weight. The doctor is just being responsible by refuting Christie's claim that you can be morbidly obese AND healthy. The governor can choose whatever lifestyle he wants but people should be warned not to follow his example.

    February 5, 2013 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  25. us_1776

    The GOP is going nowhere but down. Their base is dying off fast.

    They're ideas are still stuck in 1950 and about as relevant as yesterday's newspaper.


    February 5, 2013 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
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