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. cedaly1968

    Why he is choosing to lose the weight is not as important as the fact that he is trying to lose the weight. Whether for himself, his family, his state or his political aspirations, that's up to him. Hope he loses the pounds and keeps them off. Isn't Subway headquartered in New Jersey? Maybe he and Jared can hang out a bit!

    May 7, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  2. PushingBack

    I hope he is successful in his weight loss goal. It's not easy for any of us but I certainly understand why this is important to him.

    May 7, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  3. jj

    Did the surgery stop or reduce his use of State property for personal use?

    May 7, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  4. Rhonda Rahn

    He's getting ready for the 2016 presidential run.

    May 7, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  5. Larry in Houston

    well, I don't blame him – some people needs to do this – some can do it by theirselves. Even my doc says that if I lost around 20 # – I would feel better. ( and I agree w/ her)

    May 7, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  6. knklhead

    From a "liberal," best wishes Governor! Please take your individuality and non-partisanship to a Whitehouse run. You'll be surprised how many of us on the left would vote for even a Republican who thinks for himself and not what the wrongnuts dictate.

    May 7, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  7. Jim in Georgia

    Good luck to the "Gov" in the weight loss battle. Call Al for encouragement.

    May 7, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  8. Hoss

    If he is not strong enough to control his diet, how could he ever be thought of as being strong enough to control the country?

    May 7, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  9. GO_GOP

    Good for him and I hope our Lord gives him a long life. I would also like to see him move far far towards the right than he is presently. Once he does that I will consider him for 2016. Presently I am going with Michelle Bachmann/ Rick Santorum/ Rick Perry.

    May 7, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  10. Edward

    I don't understand how Americans can vote for a man with no self control. Christie cannot control himself. He is no different than a smoker or alcoholic. His compulsion is stuffing his face. If he cannot control this, why would anyone trust him with the control of a city, state or country? It is beyond me.

    May 7, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  11. BobbieFisher

    Whether Christie has had the lap band surgery or not, whether he's overwieght or not, whether he eats a doughnut or not, doesn't matter to me because he's the first honest Republican politician who is willing to reach across the aisles with common sense in order to better the lives of his countrymen and women. I voted for Obama – but he'd be a serious contender for my vote for president in the next election. I like this guy a lot and I trust him and I'd take a fat HONEST politician before I'd vote for a skinny HYPOCRITE politician any day of the year.

    May 7, 2013 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  12. russpfit

    Losing weight is a start. You still eat healthy foods and exercise. At 50 you have already started to lose muscle mass.

    May 7, 2013 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  13. russpfit

    I mean you still 'need to' eat healthy foods...

    May 7, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  14. Angie

    I had a lap band a year and a half ago and have gone from 290 lbs to 179 lbs and still going! Good luck to him! he made a wise choice!

    May 7, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  15. matt

    Optional taxpayer funded surgery for the gov....nothing for the poor of the state at all.

    May 7, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  16. pazke

    Good for you, Governor Christie. Everyone needs to keep their noses out of your business. I wish you well and hope your weight loss efforts are successful.

    May 7, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  17. GI Joe

    If. Gov Christi even LOOKS over his right shoulder while he's running for Pres. I won't vote for him. Too many nutjobs in DC already. Vote them out.

    May 7, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  18. Norm

    Just another GOP hypocrite preaching self-reliance and free markets, but can hardly wait to take the easy way out when someone is paying the tab.

    May 7, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  19. Linda

    I am a fan of Governor Christie and I'm glad he has taken this step to improve his health. But the cynic in me thinks it's all about a run for the White House.

    May 7, 2013 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  20. General Tso

    @ Edward " I don't understand how Americans can vote for aman with no self control...."
    Really? Obama smokes, Bill Clinton couldn't keep it in his pants, ditto JFK. Does that mean that none of these men should have been president, or are you just having a partisan rant?

    May 7, 2013 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  21. blakenaustin

    Little more than a ploy to prepare for a 2016 presidential run. Too bad for Christi that the GOP will not be fooled again. We learned a lesson the very hard way in 2008 in nominating McCain. No more RINOs. No more allowing the far left media influence who we select as a candidate. A conservative will be nominated and will soundly defeat whoever the far left selects to represent them.

    May 7, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  22. janemutiny

    It's his body and he can do whatever he wants with it.
    That said, losing weight at any cost does not equal good health. If it were really about health and quality of life, he could have just eaten wholesome food and moved his body and let his weight be wherever it wants to be. It is unfortunate that we have such fat hatred/shaming in this country. I know plenty of people who are skinny and unhealthy and also those who are heavier and thriving. Weight loss surgery comes with a host of ugly side it seems that it was more about the appearance of health rather than genuine health.

    May 7, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  23. Kobe

    Just another governor who cannot even skip a meal. No self-control is the underlying problem here.

    May 7, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  24. Matt from CT

    Yesterday he killed a spider, now he has weight loss surgery. Don't you guys have anything better to do with your lives than follow the Governor of NJ around? Whats next? How often he visits the bathroom?

    May 7, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  25. JS

    This guy is the worst excuse for a Governor. He's awful- and I'm a Republican. The best thing he could do for his party is switch sides.

    May 7, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
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