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. Linda Shinn

    I am glad for him.
    I have been trying for years now to lose the about 60 lbs. that I put on over the past 20 yrs. and it isn't easy.
    If this procedure can help Chris Christie to accomplish the weight loss that he so obviously has needed to, then I am all for it. To say that you can do it with just exercise and diet, well I have been trying to accomplish my weight loss that way for years now, and not a lot of weight has been lost.
    I believe him, when he says that, "he did it for his wife and children, and that the election is secondary in importance."
    He has always come across as a very non-egotistical type of person, which is one of the reasons that I think so many people like him.
    He doesn't come across as some uppity rich guy, who can't relate at all to what most of us are dealing with, but as "one of us".
    I hope it works for him. How he accomplishes weight loss is not what is so important, as that it happen, for many reasons.

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

    Meh. He'll always be Taft 2.0 to me.

    May 7, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  3. Doctorstrangeluv

    Don't sugarcoat it Governor ... Nothing wrong with the primary reason being you had it for the public image in preparation for a presidential run in 2016. Voters will respect someone willing to do whatever it takes to proving to the American public that your health will not be an issue for 4 or 8 years in the White House. Say it for what it is and run with it !

    May 7, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  4. Pete

    Yeah that whole routine where he was saying he's "the healthiest fat guy alive" was pretty lame and a bad message for a country dealing with an epidemic. Glad he took the step forward. He is now a legitimate presidential contender.

    May 7, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  5. AI

    As an American I'm ashamed of the eating problem we have. People say its "an weight issue" NO its a lazy, over eating, not working, lack of respect issue. I work with a bunch of overweight people that tell me I'm to skinny, no your to fat. 5'8 155 is not skinny its in shape. Stop making excuses put down the ice cream and do something about it. I actually voted for this man and I lost a lot of respect for him taking the easy way out. BTW your still fat.

    May 7, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  6. Lou50

    what a crock, not able to do moderate exercise and eat a balanced diet. Another politician that can't get it together.

    May 7, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  7. wade

    How is this news for CNn yet they never talk about Hillary or Obama lying to America over Benghazi. How Liberal biased can CNN get how deep in the pockets of Obama are they?

    May 7, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  8. Darwin

    Dear cosmok – you forget that REAGAN tripled the nationals debt and GW BUSH doubled it. If it weren't for these two wild spenders, the debt would be only half of its current level. But of course, Conservatives NEVER accept any blame for anything!

    May 7, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  9. komododr

    If wife and children are not motivation enough I don't know what is. So KUDOS to you governor.

    May 7, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  10. Loathstheright

    Family....right....he did it for the presidental run in 2016, people won't vote for someone who looks like they are going to die eating the next rack of ribs. Republicans don't have family values, they only say they do.

    May 7, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  11. Jules

    Am sure he knows he cannot run for president looking as he does now, but it is a good deal for him health wise and I wish him the best.

    May 7, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  12. RealNews

    Please find some important news CNN, you're clogging our brains with garbage. This is a People magazine story.

    May 7, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  13. Samuel

    All jokes aside, I wish Governor Christie (and soon-to-be presidential candidate?) the best with his new focus on improved health.

    May 7, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  14. Nonsensical

    Should have sewn up his mouth, less invasive while serving a dual purpose.

    May 7, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  15. Michael in Houston

    A republican actually doing something about a problem. This guy is not afraid to give credit when and where credit is due, does not mince words and is taking a problem and working through a difficult process to resolve it.
    Now that friends, is how you do it. Congrats Governor. Your a strong example that Wash DC needs to take note of and follow

    May 7, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  16. cosmok

    @ jrm03063. Bill Clinton had great control of his urges didn't he?

    May 7, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  17. MS Jackson

    What happened to the healthiest loudmouth fat guy alive? Now he's making it sound like he has been concerned about his huge gut and likely stroke for 20 years now. That's quite the belly flip fllop on his part. Good for him that he's losing weight, which he will gain back within 1 year of having the belt removed as most do. Screw him for being such an overfed, self congratulatory worm about the process. He does need to lose the weight though, he looks like a skinny man staring into a distorted mirror in a carnival's house of horrors.. In other words, repugnant.

    May 7, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  18. tet1953

    Good for him. I can't recall ever knowing a person his size who was 70 or older.

    May 7, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  19. dara

    If I were a Republican I would vote for him for many reasons.
    And whatever the motivation, he took a step to make a difference in his life and others–that's more than a lot of people can say.
    Unless you are perfect please don't judge others–what's the purpose?
    Lead your own life and make sure it's the best it can be.

    May 7, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  20. CP in MN

    I don't think it was so much keeping the surgery secret as it just isn't everybody's business. I'm sure those who needed to know were told. And for those of you who think it's the easy way to lose weight I suggest you do a little research. You still have to do the work involved – watch your diet, exercise, etc. And you especially have to be sure to have nutritious meals because you can't eat the same volume of food. And no, I haven't done this, I know a few people who have – I am on my own weight loss journey.

    May 7, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  21. tet1953

    Good for him. I don't recall ever knowing a person his size that was 70 or older.

    May 7, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  22. Jay

    Whatever he loses, he will continue to be the pig headed bigot ... Who i feel for is his wife who has to live with such a hateful person.

    May 7, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  23. Jan

    It should be seen as powerful evidence of something very wrong with our culture that so many people must turn to surgical alterations of their bodies in order to achieve a healthy weight. Cultural life styles that make and people obese are part of a greater culture that is equally harmful to many other aspects of the health of our people and everything with which we interact. Kudos to Christie for recognizing the severity of his weight problem for his long term goals (like surviving for his family as well as political ambitions) and taking action, whether it is the action I'd choose or not.

    May 7, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  24. bankrupt1

    I wouldn't have lap bands or surgery. Seems like people that do that don't do well. falling in love might work, but unsets the family.

    May 7, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  25. The Blob

    I feel bad for his wife.
    She has to lift a huge flesh flap every time she goes downtown, if she isn't careful it could crush her.

    May 7, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
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