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. Jim

    I'll never vote for a Republican, but I congratulate Gov Christie on taking such a positive step to improve his health.

    May 7, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |

    This is terrible news for all the late night show hosts.

    May 7, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  3. Paul

    And this is news? Seriously? CNN can pull out an outdated story like it does all the time in order to avoid displaying anything of substance like Bengazi, etc.

    May 7, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  4. Kat

    Here is the bottom line. You have to want to lose weight for YOURSELF. Not for your spouse, kids, work – you have to do it for you. Otherwise you end up resenting them when you struggle to succeed. Not that it does not need to be a team effort but you have to exercise, you have to eat right. The lap band, or any other kind of temporary fix is not the solution but a jump start to a long road. The solution is hard hard work. Trading in a bowl of ice cream for an apple. Having chicken grilled instead of fried. Etc. Good start Governor – and to anyone trying to lose the weight to become healthier.

    May 7, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  5. scott

    Christie sold out to Obama and even us Republicans do not like him, if he is running he better run as a Democrat. I don't like sell outs.

    May 7, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  6. Jorge Sedano

    Has he lost any weight in three months..

    May 7, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  7. Paul H

    I hope he loses the weight since that is what he wants, but I hope he never loses his fire!

    May 7, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  8. Sam

    I wish Governor Christie well. He's a great man and you can see how passionate he is about the well being of the state of New Jersey.

    May 7, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  9. dotheflippin'math

    For a republican, he's a pretty decent person. I hope he loses the weight and is alive to someday become a grandparent. A little warning: Don't push yourself to eat when you feel full. My father-in-law managed to stretch his half-stomach to the point where he stopped losing weight, and is now heavier than when he had the surgery. He lost 80lbs in the first year. 3 years later, and he's 20lbs heavier than before the surgery. If you truly have no self-control, you need gastric bypass, which is no picnic, but at least you can't beat the system on that one. Good luck, Christie. Life is more than just politics, and it's nice to see a politician prove it (unless he really did it to help his electibility, but I'll take him at his word, which is unusually good....for a Republican).

    May 7, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  10. Aaron

    Apparently his supporters are blind to has non-caring of senior citizens, especially no consideration for repealing the school tax on our fixed incomes and nests long deserted by our children. And his minions carrying out his union busting of the Camden Police Dept. or digging into our education funds and shoveling to the wealthy. I'll never vote for Mr. Arbuckle!! Someone mentioned why didn't someone mention "something as important like Benghazi"!! Interesting, in the same token Iraq, the loss of 4,422 American lives destroyed with countless heroes returning with life altering injuries because of WMD's that didn't exist but the lie is continued to be defended by the prevaricating, hate mongering, progress hindering GOP Congress!!!! Where ignorance is tolerated, intelligence cannot prevail. Oh yes, almost forgot this poignant ending, Only in America!!

    May 7, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  11. omela

    I know that such surgery is possible and I know that such surgery is expensive. The question is – if his insurance covers all these expenses or he paid on his own. I am OK with 2nd option, but if his insurance covered his expenses – this is pay from my pocket as taxpayer. I am 54, I am a bit overweighed, I have full time job but my normal ordinary standard insurance would never pay for this.

    May 7, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  12. Alex

    I would never vote democrat so I'm glad for Chris Christie

    May 7, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  13. holdin27

    It's not secret, in this country you have right to privacy when it comes to health issues.

    May 7, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  14. Phaerisee

    This is an encouraging sign that he is starting to pay attention to his health.

    May 7, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  15. Heath

    This is GREAT, CNN can report on a republican's weight loss program... but not ONE article about the President's cover up of Benghazi?!?!?

    May 7, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  16. selfevolved

    Getting a quick-fix surgery instead of using diet and exercise isn't commendable.

    May 7, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  17. Sherri

    I congratulate him on taking action. From everything I've ever heard, this is not an easy surgery and life afterwards is not easy. I hope he has success. He has a long road ahead of him.

    May 7, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  18. mimo

    He 'may' have decided to have the surgery due to his "concerns" for his family but I don't think anyone believes for a second that 2016 isn't the MAN reason he had this procedure. This guy wants to be president really bad and knows he wouldn't have been able to get there with his girth in the way.

    May 7, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  19. Googlemole

    And we care why?

    May 7, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  20. Data Driven

    So he WILL run for President in 2016. It's going to get interesting on the GOP side.

    Meantime, glad to see anyone take positive steps concerning their health.

    May 7, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  21. Oneforall777

    I very much doubt I would ever vote for someone who could not attempt to exercise and lose the weight themselves, as plenty of people have done before him. After all, a person who is running for office needs to show he has discipline and some self control., what he had done shows me neither, except he has plenty of money to get a quick fix.

    May 7, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  22. Mike

    Diet and exercise. Oh wait. That takes work and dedication. Do some wacko surgery and be praised. Whatever.

    May 7, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  23. mom4change

    Congratulations, Gov. Christie. You've taken a monumental step toward improving your health and I believe it was a courageous one. It's not an easy journey, but it will be worth it at the finish line!

    May 7, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  24. blakenaustin

    Not much of a secret is it.

    Christie is just another RINO that the far left media portrays positively. Republican voters, don't let the far left media hoodwink you again. Remember what happened with McCain in 2008. The GOP needs conservative leadership. There is little difference between a RINO and a Democrat.

    May 7, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  25. Skeptimist

    I'm not a republican but I understand that Gov. Christie was hired for his brains and competence – and he delivers to the satisfaction of the people of New Jersey. It appears that in his typical responsible manner he is taking preventive measures to address a potential health concern for the benefit of his family. I respect that. What I do not respect is the self-righteous pukes who criticize him for something that does not affect his job performance while tolerating the gross mental and character defects rampant in the U.S. Congress. On top of that, I like the Gov's terrific sense of humor but there's not a damned thing funny about Congress.

    May 7, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
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