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. Matt from CT


    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.

    The President is a smoker.

    May 7, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  2. Deez

    Lots of mature comments this morning. Great to see!

    May 7, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  3. DocHollywood

    I wish him success in this. His health is much more important than anything else to the quality of his life.

    May 7, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  4. HoosierDog

    So many on here that are saying "If he has no control over eating how can he control the country"....What about Obama and smoking?!! freakin' hypocrites...all of you. Good luck Governor, from an independent.

    May 7, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  5. teacher

    Good luck to you, Gov. Christie. I wish I had the courage to get the surgery.

    May 7, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  6. Susan

    Those saying they don't understand how anyone could vote for someone with no self control better take a long, hard look at their flawed Democrats of late. Mr. "I can't keep it in my pants" Clinton comes to mind. Heck, even Obama can't control his smoking. Teddy "I'm a lush" Kennedy? Cow man Rangel? Botox Pelosi? Oh my. A whole listed of addicted politicians who can't control themselves.

    May 7, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  7. well

    just cut it away. problem solved! this perspective qualifies him for presidency. NOT.

    May 7, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  8. dzerres

    About time. What was he waiting for? Hopefully he'll gain a little empathy for other folks dealing with other addictions but he's a Republican so I doubt it. Sympathy and empathy, even if they demand it for themselves, is not in their vocabulary.

    May 7, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  9. SokrMom

    Saw this coming. He thinks it is the one thing that stands between him and the Presidency–ignoring his history of temper tantrums and public attacks on his "enemies." Not to mention his war on public education, once one of New Jersey's few strong points.

    May 7, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  10. Grant

    If he had to be coerced into having the lap band and he did it for his kids, he wouldn't be a viable presidential candidate anyway because , to me , it demonstrates apathy that he wouldn't do it for himself, besides, he has to be a globalist and I'm not sure he is one.

    May 7, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  11. al

    It's good to see the governor take a positive step to do something food for his health. I applaud him for it and wish him the best of success in his weight loss journey.

    May 7, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  12. smithdp

    I appreciated the support he showed for Obama after the hurricane.

    May 7, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  13. John The Electrician

    My prediction "Chris Christie will lose 100 pounds, switch to Democrate and be President in 2016". One more shoe to drop.

    May 7, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  14. Linda Counts Hatcher

    I had lap band surgery in June 2010....I'm down 156, best thing I've ever done for myself!!!!

    May 7, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  15. Floyd

    He'll be on Oprah (whateverform she takes these days) and the View, and with other dumb infobabes, for the women's vote.

    May 7, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  16. KellyinBoston

    It probably is about a run for the White House. But who cares? He's doing the right thing.

    May 7, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  17. Flossy

    All of you talking about self control need to realize that not EVERYONE gets fat from over eating. Some are born unlucky and surgery is their ONLY option.

    As for you trying to compare it to Obama smoking.. Obama QUIT smoking over a year ago. Look it up.

    May 7, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  18. mindie in indie

    how about trying a healthy diet and exercise – but that's too hard I guess. Wants immediate gratification.

    May 7, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  19. Julia

    His health is his personal business. It's not 'secret' because it's not our business to know. Can we stop with the fat jokes? If he's fat, he's a target. If he does something to help combat being overweight, then he's being 'secret' and that's something to ridicule. It's gross. I am no Christie fan, so I'm extra annoyed you're making me defend him. Stop being juvenile and gross.

    May 7, 2013 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  20. jim

    Good luck Gov. its no fun being overweight and certainly unhealthy-he seems like good guy so good luck and do whatever it takes Chris-to quote from Jethro Tull "don't want to be a fat man, have not the patience to ignore all that"

    May 7, 2013 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  21. gibberish

    Good for Christie. And for all the rest of you perfect people, well, enjoy being perfect on your planet.

    May 7, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  22. Terri

    You people are nuts! There is more to weight issues that simply eating too much or not enough. I can eat a healthy diet and gain weight. I've tried them all and it's not so easy for some of us and very easy for others. Let's have some sympathy/empathy for folks who struggle with their weight, some of it is under their control some of it isn't! Sometimes it takes more than just watching what you eat.

    May 7, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  23. EJ

    Good for Mr. Christie and congrats to his kids for having a dad who loves them enough to do this.

    May 7, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  24. Keep Fear Alive

    I told a friend months ago that Chiristie will under-go weight loss surgury in order to run for president becuase no one will vote for someone that fat ..... any more ...

    May 7, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  25. NFF

    I am a lifelong Democrat and live in NJ – I think the Gov has done a great thing for himself. Good for HIM!

    May 7, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
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