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. carlos aponte

    Good for his family as for d governor should become a registered democrat and complete d cycle.

    May 7, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  2. MaryM

    Good for you Christie. Your health is important. Also, you have earned the respect of many, many democrats for you standing up for the Americans in your state, unlike your republican party. Good luck in 2016

    May 7, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  3. Bubba

    If Christie had succeeded in his weight loss using self control and some weight watchers, then I would applaud. But surgery shows no self discipline, which is what Christie accuses everyone else of ot having. I like his politics, but his weight will always be an issue.

    May 7, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  4. Bree

    So he did it for his "wife and kids." I'd say just as much for his political future. Still, the sooner these surgeries are done, the better. Younger bodies recover better than older ones. I know - I was 70. I'm glad to have done it though.

    May 7, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  5. FatFanny

    Cheeseburger in paradise!

    May 7, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  6. spthatcher

    Can you say "First step in a Presidential run"? I knew you could.

    May 7, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Good for him. I hope this helps. Over eating is like alcoholism. Some people cannot stop. I will be praying that this is successful.

    May 7, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  8. mary

    Good for him..I like this guy.. He is about the only Republican I do like..
    He has a heart, and isn't afraid to take a stand for what is right..
    So why does he stay a Republican?? He should dump them and come over to the good side~!

    May 7, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  9. T

    I think he made a great choice! Why not take advantage of a tool that is available? It's not a magic operation. You have to do the work. Hopefully this will help him change his lifestyle and eating habits. I'm proud of him stepping up and revealing that he had this procedure done. There are so many Americans that struggle with obesity and I hope that his public weight loss journey will inspire others! Kudos Christie!!

    May 7, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  10. Nate in CA

    Having left the republican party back in 06, I can say that Christie is making the right choice... for ME.
    I like christie, generally, as he's the only politician I like more the more I hear him talk.

    May 7, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  11. chuck

    I think its great that he is taking control of the situ..I am not a political fan at all but I am pleased that the man is taking his obesity seriously. The surgery has unexpected benefits..most dont know it is a immediate cure for Diabetes also..

    May 7, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  12. wowzersz

    he's comin... 2016.

    May 7, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  13. RandyF

    He might as well as get a soul implant so he can leave the GOP for the Dems or the Green Party while he's at it.

    May 7, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  14. skegeeace

    I don't know as much about Gov. Christie as I'd like, but he's probably the only Republican candidate I've ever thought of voting for as president.

    May 7, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  15. Marie MD

    He should have taken better care of himself a long time ago.
    I thoug he looked "slimmer" when he was shown on TV but I thought it might have been the angle of the camera shot.
    He is one od those folks who,will need skin tightening surgery. He still has a long way to go and he has to do something about the extra skin.
    Regardless, I hope he is doing it for his health and family because Taft might have been elected but he IS still a repug. A bit more sensible than the crazies of his party but still . . . . . . .

    May 7, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  16. Fiona

    On Christie's statement that he did the procedure for his wife and kids, I'd like to point out that his wife has stuck by him through his years of massive weight gain, and she should be commended for her loyalty. If you look at that photo of them from the 1980s, you see who she married. Then look at him now. It's difficult in a marriage when one partner's physical appearance changes so much (outside of illness or accident). My spouse has let himself go while I've made great efforts to stay in shape. Believe is very hard to feel the same way about him as I did before he became fat.

    May 7, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  17. Valerie Roll

    Gov. Christie is the ONLY Republican I LIKE!!! Personally I could JUST KISS HIM !!!!!!

    May 7, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  18. MBranch

    ...As if the only thing standing between Christie and a national office was his weight.

    He has reached the highest office he'll ever attain. Glad he's trying to get healthy for his and his family's sake. And I hope he continues to work hard for the people of NJ, but that's about it.....which is not a bad place to be actually.

    But, a national office is not in his future.

    May 7, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  19. yougottobekiddingme

    For those of you that insult the Govenors weight issues, you have obviously not had a weight problem yourself. I have tried the weight watchers, Atkins, Jenniy Craig, starving, low carbs, blah blah blah and after 20 years of fighting it, I went for the weight loss surgery and I am glad I did. As for using self control when I ate, I monitored every calorie I put in my mouth and it didn't work. So unless you are a doctor that understands how a body can go into starvation mode, shut up!!. Some of us don't eat ALOT, our bodies just save every calorie we eat. The surgery stops that from happening and there is a little more to it than just having a smaller stomach. It isn't just about eating less, it is eating the right stuff at the right time. So unless you have HAD a weight problem for years and understand the frustration of counting calories, exersizing and still gaining weight, Shut up.

    May 7, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  20. Tbay

    Good for him. And for all the neighsayers who think this is taking the easy way out, you are wrong.

    For people who are morbidly obese (body mass index over 40%), the changes of losing enough weight and keeping it off for more than 5 years are less than 2%. And that figure is calculated based on patients who are under a doctors care while losing the weight. Bariatric surgury raises that to around a 70% success rate.

    Keep in mind that this isn't a magic pill. It is more like a redo. You will lose the weight, but unless you learn better eating habits you will gain it all back. But the good thinh about this surgury is that it comes with counciling, nutritional eating and cooking classes, and physical theropy. The surgury is the easy part... the re-education is the hard part. And it is a life long change. However, it is that surgury that allows you to rapidly lose enough weight and get you to a point where you are able to excersise and you have lost enough wieght that it has made a difference.

    Good for your Gov!!!!!

    May 7, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  21. Adrian Blackwell

    Life is hard and you must be in good shaPe.

    May 7, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  22. colliemom

    Good for him. It's hard to admit that you need help with weight, so glad he went for medical consultation and had the surgery done. Will be nice to see the pounds fall off. This is he and his family's concern, shouldn't be national/political news. He's setting a good example for all those people who also struggle with weight.

    May 7, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  23. electroneconomy

    Good for you and best of luck. You did speak up for the American people and hoping you will continue to be that leader!

    May 7, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  24. MelissaA520

    There is an easy way to lose weight that works, go on a Fruitarian diet mostly fruit juice from raw veggies and some vegetables with nuts. You will lose weight before you know it. You can sneak meat in every now and then if you want to nothing is written in stone with this.

    May 7, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  25. MelissaA520

    The best thing with the diet I mention above is you can snack all day long.

    May 7, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
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