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. ImIrish

    Carlos Aponte – He wants to lose weight, not his mind and values.

    May 7, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  2. mikzyspitlik

    In the 80s, he was a handsome guy.... Whatever the "true" reasons are -wife and kids/presidential run- I'm happy he got the surgery. There is no point in leaving this planet early because of a manageable weight issue. Especially in this day and age.

    May 7, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  3. frmrma

    Actually chuck, the LAP BAND does not cure are thinking of the gastric bypass. And, yes, many people do know about that since it is becoming a more common procedure for doctors to recommend to diabetics of healthy weight.

    May 7, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  4. Olaf Big

    Chris Christie was not far-gone enough for a weight-loss surgery. He seems, and proclaims to be a very healthy if seriously overweight guy. This is not something portion control and rigorous exercise can't take care of, but that requires perseverance, and time. So, he basically decided that he wants to lose weight, but can't commit to doing it the healthy way. Too bad!

    May 7, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  5. MBranch

    Christie is actually more aligned with the left than the right.

    If he's going to run in 2016 – which I don't think will be happening – he'd have a much greater chance if he were doing it as a (D) than an (R).

    May 7, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  6. buckybadger

    There is this other thing called diet and exercise. This surgery should only be used in extreme cases, not to further someone political career.

    May 7, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  7. ted

    Good luck to him. My wife has been on a weight loss/gain yoyo for years. It is very difficult to lose weight as you age. I am 56 and trying to lose 20 lbs is hard, even when you exercise and really watch what you eat. I hope he is victorious.

    May 7, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  8. Wake up People!

    Yeah right for his wife and kids. He did it so he could look more "Presidential". The bully actually thinks he will be POTUS. I hope not.

    May 7, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  9. ibivi

    Good for him. He's just way too heavy and not doing anything about it could shorten his life. Best wishes Mr Christie!

    May 7, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  10. Mainscribe

    Good for Mr. Christie,

    Takes courage to step up for himself and his family.

    May 7, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  11. Krispy

    Good for you Mr. Christie. I had the procedure about 4 years ago. It is a slow weight loss process but it works well. I have lost about 70 lbs and am extremely healthy at this point. It came off gradually and this was by far the best way for me. It is alot of work because the "Band" is just a tool that helps you eat the way we know we are supposed to. If you don't eat well and exercise you won't lose the weight even with the band. This is NOT gastric bypass where you lose weight whether you try or not. Again, it is a healthy non-invasive way to go. Good Luck

    May 7, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  12. YeahRight

    Only a leftist would vote or not vote for someone based on their weight.

    May 7, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  13. Jim Marler

    Good luck governor and I wish you great success from a democrat.

    May 7, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  14. sparky

    Well, I guess *someone* is running for president after all...

    May 7, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  15. kevin

    Christie did this to himself. If you look at his high school pictures you can see that he was an athlete with a very usual teenage body. He obviously did not always have a weight problem. He ate himself into his current size. If he really wanted he could have done a strict regime of dieting and exercise. He took the easy way out but doing the surgery.

    May 7, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  16. WHY?

    Shame on the media for making such a big deal about it. Beat him up for being heavy....then beat him up for trying to get healthy? Good luck Sir...and healthier days ahead.

    May 7, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  17. Pat Riot

    Remember when you had to work for the things you wanted?

    May 7, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  18. Jojola

    Practically everyone I know who has gone in for routine checkup was told by their doctor to eat healthier and exercise. It's about time Christie decided to do something about his weight. I'm sure his family is very happy. I guess now we all can send him "well wishes" instead of "whale wishes".

    May 7, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  19. paullubbock

    I thought he looked good as a chubby boy, what's wrong with that? On a side note, if he does the surgery, he should do it for himself only, otherwise, he might not stick to it and have bad results.

    May 7, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  20. sc3441

    I thought he was looking thinner in his youtube videos lately, I am a subscriber to his youtube videos and a NJ resident. I wish Gov. Christie lots of luck and good health. I also hope he runs for POTUS in 2016....

    May 7, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  21. Matt from CT


    Matt from CT. How dare you! Shame, Shame, Shame! You bashed Gov. Christie and say that he should not be in office. Matt what makes you so perfect?.............

    When did I bash Gov. Christie? I like the guy and wish him the best.

    May 7, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  22. Rob

    Someone's trying to appear "Presidential".....

    May 7, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  23. elucidated1

    I'm not a Christie fan when he decides to be a bully. . .but he has just saved his life since he has no inherent self control, like many of the overweight people in America. Just travel to Europe to see how many fat people you DON'T see.

    May 7, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  24. KK

    He did not have good advice regarding his size and choosing an appropriate procedure. That's why it's so important to see an experienced bariatric surgeon who does all of the operations–Lap-Band, VSG, RNY, and DS. Lap-Band has such a high failure rate. Also horrible quality of life. Can't think that productive burping (aka regurgitating your food) will go well for Gov. Christie. He would have been far better off having a sleeve gastrectomy (no PB, food intolerance issues), with a possible second stage DS. I wish him well, but having been involved with Lap-Bands since their FDA trial days, I can't believe that there are still surgeons even offering them to clients.

    May 7, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  25. Liberatus

    Ohhhhh......the ol' "to spend more time with my family" bull.
    Translation: "Because I keep hearing I can't be elected president if I'm overweight......and I've already started campaigning for 2016."

    May 7, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
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