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. FantasticWorld

    I am glad that he is finally not calling himself the fittest fat man. That was embarrassing and stupid. Acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step to doing something about it. Too many fat people just walk around thinking and claiming they are not fat! Next you know, calling someone fat would be deemed a hate-word! Also, when you have 70% population as fat & obese you cant blame the genes. It is lifestyle and high time that we stopped being the fattest and stupidiest people on the planet.

    May 7, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  2. elucidated1

    Christie jjust said his weight loss is personal and nothing to do with the public sounds great. . until on realizes that he's in a PUBLIC office and as he begins his presidential run. . .his weight loss IS meaningful to all Americans.

    May 7, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  3. grobbeist

    What a message to send to Americans: If you have a weight problem...DO NOT control your portions; DO NOT eat healthier, lighter food; DO NOT exercise to lose all that weight. Just wait until it gets bad enough to where you feel the only option is surgery. It's amazing these Republicans are all about "taking responsibility" for your actions, and they cannot even take responsibility for their own bodies!

    May 7, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  4. elias

    The only way Christie could run for national office, which most likely he couldn't do considering so many of the positions he has taken in the past, would be to run as a (D) or an (I). No way he would make it as an (R).

    He's already halfway aligned with (D)'s – he just needs to follow Charlie Crist's lead and embrace where he actually has been heading all along.

    May 7, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  5. lex

    Christie is a good guy, reasonably principled politician. So good for him.

    Most politicians are unrprincipled and will say and do anything to market theselves. These unprincipled ones could probably do for a brain transplant.

    May 7, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  6. KP

    If he had lost the weight honestly, I would have been more inclined to vote for him. Then again, if he did anything honestly, he wouldn't be a politician...

    May 7, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  7. enuff

    Why is anybody's business why he had it done? That is a personal issue. Are you going to publicize if he has had a vasectomy too?

    May 7, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  8. Sheila

    His weight, his solution, his business. His state chose him to be Governor. Their business. Next topic?

    May 7, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  9. Real American

    Good luck Governor Christie!

    May 7, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  10. sam

    Leave Christie alone. It is his health and not of concern for the press. IF he runs for President that is another matter. I hope for him the best.

    May 7, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  11. Jeff

    Because he's a typical republican, he goes for the easy surgery fix, but he would tell the poor ... you aren't responsible, just eat less ...

    May 7, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  12. Mel

    If it was really about his family, he wouldn't run for office again and would concentrate on losing weight the right way instead of through surgery.

    May 7, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  13. dike

    Run for office??? lol he can barely walk

    May 7, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  14. Joe

    Chris Christie has reached the highest office he will ever attain.

    If Jersey wants him for the long-term...good for them, he might just be around for a couple more years to help them. Highest office he'll ever hold, which is an honorable office.

    May 7, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  15. Kelcy

    Nice if you have insurance.....and an insurance company that will cover it with all the follow up.

    Is he now going to work so that anyone in NJ can benefit from the same?

    May 7, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  16. tuscany590

    @Edward; They voted Clinton in twice didn't they?

    May 7, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  17. Fish

    Good for Gov. Christie, It'll be nice to have him around for many more years. I wish him all the luck in the world!!!

    May 7, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  18. Joe

    Many long and happy years to Christie with his family that he clearly loves.

    He will never be president, and actually I don't think he gives a rip about the job.

    NJ is doing great with him as governor. Let him have the job he loves for life.

    May 7, 2013 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  19. Juliad01

    Kelcy I agree with you. Who paid for his surgery? Most insurance agencies wont cover it. But then again I see them waiving that for the Gov. Us peons get the go flip urself!

    May 7, 2013 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  20. been there

    So many judgmental comments. There's nothing easy about weight loss surgery – it is not an easy fix. Only those who have been thru it can say what it's like. Get educated.

    May 7, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  21. ted

    What's wrong with going on a diet?

    May 7, 2013 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  22. Kay

    Who's he trying to kid? Of course this was done in order to get himself fit enough to run for president. That's pretty obvious.

    May 7, 2013 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  23. Misterwire

    He is the only smart republican who does not tell lies about other people and I love him and will vote for him.

    May 7, 2013 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  24. ken

    This is newsworthy of political opinion? Think Benghazi is infinitely more relevant.

    May 7, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  25. Brian from DC

    Three months after weight loss surgery and nobody can see a difference? Wow, that's a success story!

    May 7, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
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