May 7th, 2013
07:48 AM ET
9 years 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.

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"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. nolapearl

    Good for him!

    May 7, 2013 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  2. GI Joe

    Wow – pretty drastic. I've only known one person that has had that surgery, and she lost weight to where she was just bones, and very unhealthy.
    I guess the state will pay for his healthcare and reversal when it's time. Not like the rest of us schmucks.

    May 7, 2013 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  3. Janet

    Good luck to him, but I wonder why he felt it necessary to gobble that donut on the Letterman Show while joking about his weight? Obesity and bariatric surgery are no llaughing matters.

    May 7, 2013 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  4. jaron kadek

    The reporters seem pleased, Governor. You have hit another home run with them. They like their guys lean and mean.

    May 7, 2013 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  5. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Good for you Governor! Soon we won't be able to crack more jokes on you! Gee...well that's until you decide to run for President!

    May 7, 2013 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  6. bmurdoc

    The surgery doesn't make you less lazy

    May 7, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  7. Kelly51

    I wish you a long and healthy life Mr. Christi.

    May 7, 2013 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  8. kwag13

    Not everything is about race, gender, age, religion or political aspirations. Most of the time, it's just about doing what's right. And when we do something significant for others, that's the true test of courage and caring. Well done, governor! Best wishes for a successful, healthful next 50 years!

    May 7, 2013 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  9. ts

    they say he has lost almost 30 pounds since Feb. I have lost 42 pounds since the end of Jan and the taxpayers didnt pay for it

    May 7, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  10. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    You still have to work out Governor.

    May 7, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  11. jnpa

    I guess he figures he has to look presidential if running for that office.

    May 7, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  12. Jim

    Analysts repeatedly identify 2 problems for Christie if he runs for national office. The first is that as an East Coast Republican he will have a hard time in many primaries where East Coast Republicans are inherently viewed as more liberal on social issues. The second is that in Christie's case, his physical obesity lends credit to the assertion that he is lazy or gluttonous, but has advanced himself through corrupt means at the expense of the labor of others.

    May 7, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  13. Rick McDaniel

    He is running. Now we are sure.

    May 7, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  14. gypsytoo

    why does everything in this world have to have some political connection? maybe the man is just tired of all that weight – a whole lot of us are – and do things we think will help prolong our lives or add quality to our lives. – losing weight is one of them. but oh no – it is always because of politics. sheesh!

    May 7, 2013 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  15. Gonzo

    Good for him. When you have been on the weight loss rollercoatser for many many years, sometimes it takes drastic measures to lose the weight and keep it off. Best of luck to him.

    May 7, 2013 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  16. NH mom

    He needs to Exercise too for the sale of his family!

    May 7, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  17. snowboarder

    pushing himself away from the table would have been better exercise.

    May 7, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  18. Jason

    ...also for the sake of his political future.

    May 7, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  19. Janice

    Gov. Christie should be commended for his courage in getting this surgery and I wish him well. Those who have never struggled with obesity really have no idea how hard and how complicated weight loss can be for the truly obese. I've struggled all my life and am still on the journey. After a health crisis, I looked at pictures of my young grandchildren and decided I wanted to do anything I could to take care of myself so, God willing, I can see them into adulthood. So bless you on your journey, Gov. Christie.

    May 7, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  20. Marcus

    Good health to you Mr. Christie. I may be a bleeding hear liberal but I applaud anyone's decision to improve their health.

    May 7, 2013 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  21. SV

    Congratulations to Gov Christie for taking a step to improve his health. Weight loss surgery is a wonderful tool in the fight against obesity and is nothing to be ashamed of. However, the gastric band is very easily cheated. You can sip on milkshakes all day long and that sweet wonderful ice cream just slides on through. A band is a baby step for those scared to make the commitment of gastric bypass or the sleeve: bigger risk, but a far bigger reward. So get on with the exercise and lifestyle changes while you can Gov, maybe you can be one of the few who can make a band work and keep the weight off. I really do sincerely hope so. Your family and country needs you more than you need an entire apple pie. (Which you could also easily eat with a band if you chew it enough.)

    May 7, 2013 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  22. Al-NY,NY

    It's good that he is taking his obvious weight problem seriously but we'll see how far it goes. The bad thing for him is that he dared to say something even remotely nice about Obama. He'd better get on the GOP bandwagon "Obama is evil""Obama the union toady""Obama the community organizer" etc and never say anything that is even close to nice any more if he wants that GOP 2016 nomination. The taliban will not tolerate dissention or free will

    May 7, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  23. port de dort

    Good for him.

    May 7, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  24. jaron kadek

    Congrats to the governor. Both Matt and Savannah seemed pleased. They like the politicians thin.

    May 7, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  25. thomase

    Good for you, governor! While traveling through the states, I understand why it's so easy to put on so much weight. To get business restaurants generally serve huge decadent portions. It's hard to say no.

    May 7, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
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