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. Maxii

    Happy for him and his children. My 31 year old son collapsed and died suddenly in March from an enlarged heart leaving behind a young child who won't remember him. Good going Governor. Your children deserve better.

    May 7, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  2. People please

    Fat or not, Bully or not, D or R I will vote for Chris Christie because he can work with both sides and also he fixes things and for Washington right now what it needs is a Christie to put things in order. Ihope and pray he runs and yes I am a conservative and I will support Christie. In the end if he runs I bet you he will even win the primaries very easily. Christie is the real deal people.

    May 7, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  3. Ok seriously

    How many in this post are Doctors? Exactly!

    May 7, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  4. Ed

    Surgery is for lazy whimps with no discipline. I tried fads and then finally listened to my Doctor. Healthy eating and exercise every day is all it takes. I eat better and more than I ever did before and workout 30mins each day. I don't miss any of the junk food I use to eat. I don't like to exercise but I love the way I feel. I can walk a shopping mall and not get winded. I can pick up things I use to ask for help with. Since March 19th I have gone from 262 to 235. I'm also 50yo and don't want to die any time soon. That's my motivation.

    May 7, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    "for the sake of his wife and kids"................Riiiiiiiight!!!

    May 7, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. elias

    Hilary/Christie 2016?

    More plausible than Christie (R) 2016....

    May 7, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  7. Norm

    When he says he did it for his wife and kids I believe him.
    His wife probably threatened to leave him because she can't find his wee wee anymore and his kids are probably embarrassed to have such a Gimongus father and all the other kids are making fun of them.

    May 7, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    he couldn't even have the surgery in NJ! he had to have it at NYU, some allegiance to the state

    May 7, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  9. ShawnDH

    YeahRight cried: "Only a leftist would vote or not vote for someone based on their weight."

    Only a right-wing wacko would use a word like "leftist." Try again.

    May 7, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    @Maxii–So sorry for you and your family's loss.

    May 7, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  11. lazurite

    Wanting to lose weight and become more healthy is commendable, but I'm not sure we all need to know such private medical details. Just let the guy lose weight and be done with it.

    May 7, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  12. Kossde

    To those of you who say lap-band won't work: I had lap-band surgery about 4 years ago and lost almost 200 lbs. I now weight a healthy 130 lbs. My life has changed so much for the better since then. Stay motivated, Christie and you can do it!!

    May 7, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  13. Steve

    Unless you have some other condition, and he doesn't, this wasn't necessary. This was the lazy, easy option. All you need to do to lose weight is eat at a caloric deficit. For someone with his resources, if he can't commit to that, I wouldn't vote for him. It's just simple self-control.

    May 7, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  14. strangerq

    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 greatr chance if he were doing it as a (D) than an (R).

    ^ I agree.

    But he's the only R that can win.

    Thus R's have no chance in 2016.

    May 7, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  15. strangerq

    Translation: "Because I keep hearing I can't be elected president if I'm overweight......and I've already started campaigning for 2016."

    ^ GOP won't elect him anyway. He is not a right wing nut job, and he is not completely dishonest like Romney, and won't kiss tea bagger bottom to get them to vote for him.

    May 7, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  16. Sunflower2

    Kudos to you Mr. Christi!! You made a good sound decision and one that will help you in more ways than you realize. The Lap Band will require some work on your part (unlike the dangerous bypass) but will be well worth it. I couldn't be happier for you and your family.

    May 7, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  17. Brian

    Slow news day?

    May 7, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  18. cosmok

    @ Wake Up People. I'll take a tough leader instead of the current whiner and chief we have now.

    May 7, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  19. jrm03063

    Why is it that conservatives can't control their urges?

    May 7, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  20. rinsac

    Good for him!!! No everyone, let him alone. It's none of our business.

    May 7, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  21. Randy Clapper

    Congrats to the Govenor. I wish all success and good health.

    May 7, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  22. rinsac

    Good for him!!! Now everyone, let him alone. It's none of our business.

    May 7, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  23. Gary

    This is funny. Everybody commenting here is fat. Unless you are Asian. I'm blessed with eyesight.

    May 7, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  24. Darwin

    Why keep the surgery a secret? Is he embarrassed that he couldn't reduce his food intake voluntarily and required surgery to lose weight? Millions of other Americans are just as fat and just as unable to put those donuts down, so he shouldn't be embarrassed.

    May 7, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  25. cosmok

    @ Edward. "I don't understand how Americans can vote for a man with no self control." Well Obama has no self control when it comes to spending the tax payers money.

    May 7, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
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