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. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    As someone who has faced his own weight control issues for the better part of 50 years (I have been up and down on the scales more than the Cyclone at Coney Island), I can understand these issues about Governor Christie. This is one reason that Mike Huckabee is somewhat of a hero to me, considering the weight he took off while Governor! Can't stand anything else about the guy, but his weight loss is inspirational to me.

    February 6, 2013 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  2. Duck Fallas

    Christie isn't fat. Michelle Obama is.

    February 6, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    @Rudy NYC

    I've been warning y'all about that growing conspiracy for weeks and months now. Haven't I?

    Yes, Rudy. You have. And considering how amusing it was/is, I'd say no one took you too seriously at the time. This is what happens when the right is given the impression through media outlets that simply because THEY are afraid of their own shadows, everyone else is afraid of those same shadows, never mind that 90% of what the right spews is fear based nonsense. How many actually believe their own tin foil nonsense is anyone's guess.

    February 6, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  4. Jan

    Chris Christie has a good spirit, but his excess weight is NO JOKE!!! STRESS KILLS!!! REALLY!!!

    February 6, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  5. Edwin

    How irresponsible of Dr. Mariano to make such a pronouncement based ONLY on weight. Christie's doctor knows a LOT more about him than how many pounds he weighs. This sounds political – or an attempt to gain headlines.

    February 6, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Alec asked:

    Here's the real question: where do you find the time to lose weight as president, much less governor!? I can only imagine Christie sitting at a desk for twelve hours a day, doing paperwork and munching the occassional jelly cookie.
    You find the time to lose in the same place you found the time to gain it in the first place.

    February 6, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  7. Jeff

    Who cares? He has suicidal tendancies both political and personal. His problem!

    February 6, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  8. sifto

    katie–how could you be so wrong about so many things?

    February 6, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  9. Puddin

    Ditto, Joe from CT. I was born a 9 pound baby, and, after first grade, I began ballooning. At about age 17, when I bagan noticing boys, I cut back on the fried chicken and sugar, and did floor exercised, and I finally got a waistline. The boys then began to notice me and what an ego booster! After marriage and three children, the overweight began again. Then I discovered Weight Watchers, which is really the point I wanted to make. Weight Watchers is the best program for losing weight and then maintaining your weight in my opinion. I am, in no way, associated with Weight Watchers as an employee; I'm just a former satisfied customer. Gov. Christi need only to follow their program to get 'er done.

    February 6, 2013 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  10. ImIrish

    Having a problem with being overweight is a difficult and very sensitive issue. People with emotional problems (who doesn't have them?!) have to have an outlet, and that can be in smoking, drinking, overeating, etc. It is not simply an issue of pushing back from the table. There are deep psychological issues, usually, and Governor Christie needs to address those. I hope that he gets help and is successful. I'm sure that his friends, family and supporters want him around a long time. I wish him well.

    February 6, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  11. Trevor

    Yeah, no fat people live past 55. Give me a break. This is a made up problem. Being overweight is an issue–but it isn't like having terminal cancer or something.

    February 6, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  12. critical thinking

    Christie and all morbidly obese people do need to try their best at reducing their weight, the key words here is THEIR WEIGHT. All decisions have cost / benefit outcomes, let people make their own choices but they must live with THEIR own decisions.

    If you look at this country's ever expanding deficit and compare it to Gov Chrisitie's weight. We should as a nation be more concerned with this economic weight problem because it effects all of us, not just one person. Think of every dollar we borrow to offset our overspending as a jelly dougnut. We continue to eat jelly doughnut, after jelly doughnut and the WH and Congress tells us, dont worry, we will fix it as we eat trillions of jelly doughnuts.

    Wake up people, you cant lose weight eating jelly doughnuts and you cant reduce the deficit by increasing govt spending.

    February 6, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  13. MRHD

    Hey, his weight could be an asset. He certainly physically represents the average American better than the trim health nuts we've had in office recently. Just change the question from who you would want a beer with to who you would want to go to an all you can eat buffet with, someone who will give you judging stares as you stuff your face or someone who will happily down four or five plates right alongside you? Americans will be climbing over each other to get on the Christie bandwagon.

    February 6, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  14. Larry L

    I recently heard Glenn Beck complain about the "Nanny State" having no right to question a person's right to be obese. Sarah Palin ridiculed Michelle Obama for engaging with the childhood obesity issue – for the same reason. In reality, obesity impacts us all in enormously increased healthcare costs, lost productivity, and higher insurance rates. Our defense posture is significantly reduced by a much reduced pool of eligible recruits for military service. Diabetes, on the current trajectory, will break our healthcare system – Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security disiability. It's as "serious as a heart attack".

    February 6, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  15. East of Eden

    The same people that call Michelle Obama a cow try to tell others to turn the other way when an article about Mr. Christie is posted. Very interesting.

    February 6, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  16. Jeff

    Who cares? No Republican or Democrat does. He is a washed up circus clown with no audience cheering "for' him.

    February 6, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  17. JenBE

    Governor Christie should have a chat with another politician here in Belgium, Bart de Wever. The guy has managed to lose a huge amount of weight over 12-18 months – something like 60kg/130lbs. Really incredible!

    February 6, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  18. KB

    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.

    February 6, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  19. Jill-IN

    Gov. Christie should carefully consider the care and concerns others are expressing. Even if he has good cholesterol readings, that isn't the only thing to worry about. He should know that once there is a heart attack, the heart muscle is never the same again, not the same size, shape, or functions, including other functions the heart serves so well. So, if others deeply care and are brave enough to express it, they only want to see him healthy and around for a long time. IS that so bad. Maybe a "diet" isn't what he needs but to change what goes on the meal plate every day – portion 80% vegetables and legumes and 20% lean meat or fish. Rev. Al Sharpton did this withou a fad diet and it might be worth talking to him about it.

    February 6, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  20. deminnj

    As a NJ resident, I have an idea.... Christie should go on the show "The Biggest Loser". He fits the title and the state could use a break from his mouth while he sweats it off in CA. I would love to see Bob & Jillian have a hayday with him.

    February 6, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  21. asdrel

    Spell Check can be an amusing thing. It won't catch when a person misspelled a word in a way that a properly spelled, yet incorrect, word results. An example is in Duck Fallas's post in which he/she entered "fat" when surely she/he meant "fit".

    February 6, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  22. s

    i see... so mariano has never examined christie as a doctor, yet feels qualified to decree on his state of health based on his appearance and her having previously counseled clinton on how to lose weight. he's fat. we see that. he sees that. HIS PERSONAL DOCTOR, who has actually examined him and should know whether or not he's an incipient diabetic, or how high his blood pressure is, i am quite sure, has told him what to do about it. i am also quite sure that, as he has said, it is always on his mind. i can't be the only one to find it offensive, that this woman, based solely on her interaction with an entirely different person over a decade ago, feels it necessary to put her 2 cents in, and do it in such a way as to make clear that she doesn't want a fat guy for president. he might drop dead of a heart attack in office. well, he might droop dead of a heart attack in the office of governor right now. he might get run over by a semi. he might fall out of the sky in a plane. he might fall down the stairs and break his neck. the possibility of dying in office from being fat may be somewhat slightly higher than dying from ebola, but it should hardly be a bar to his running. so much advice and concern! how about letting his doctor tell him how to handle any health issues that may pop up, whether related to his weight or something else?

    February 6, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  23. Jake

    As a native of New Jersey, I'll be doing my part by mailing him a gift basket of raw meat and candy, covered in melted cheese and gravy.

    The sooner we're rid of this cancer, the better.

    February 6, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  24. Krys

    He can't possibly be healthy – he is morbidly obese. Let's face it, he didn't get that big eating vegetables and the only reason his cholesterol and blood pressure could possibly be normal is that he's on medication. Obese people are costing this health care system a lot of money. Maintaining someone with diabetes is extremely expensive. I have never in my life seen this many obese people in america. Back in the 80's, there were very few extremely obese people. As a matter of fact, the people that use those electric shopping carts are usually 100 pounds overweight. Maybe they should think about WALKING

    February 6, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  25. Robyn


    >> Duck Fallas
    >> Christie isn't fat. Michelle Obama is.

    How Republican Reality works.


    February 6, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
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