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. Dianne

    Congratulations Mr. Christie. I also had bariatric surgery in February. (had the gastric sleeve) It has saved my life. 70 lbs. and counting – another 50 to go. While you certainly don't need my advice, I will offer it anyway. Stay away and deaf from those who nay-say what you're trying to accomplish. You go Sir!

    May 7, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  2. Vader

    Guess it's not a secret anymore...

    May 7, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  3. C


    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 |

    Head over to FOX if you want to hear fairy tales.

    May 7, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  4. Romney is Still NOT My Hero

    What?!!! I won't be able to call him Christie Creme anymore. This is a sad moment for me. – Congrats anyway. I hope you have success.

    May 7, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  5. Elwyn

    Will this surgery work if you're an emotional eater, not someone who is eating only when hungry?

    May 7, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  6. Shelley

    If you've never struggled with weight, consider yourself lucky. For many obese people, it's because they skip meals that they gain weight or can't lose. Losing weight is about a total lifestyle change, which includes not just eating better and exercising more, but making sure you eat smaller meals more frequently instead of 3 large meals a day.

    Getting a "lap band" is not the easy way out. It's a tool, pure and simple. The Governor still needs to watch what he eats and be more physically active... but as we age, losing weight becomes a lot more difficult. And, who knows what other genetic or medical issues he has that also makes weight loss more of a challenge. Not all of us are born with a metabolism that burns off everything we eat, and it's not easy to jumpstart a slow metabolism.

    So, "haters", keep on hating. Personally, I applaud Gov. Christie for taking the first steps to better health. Best of luck to him.

    May 7, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    I applaud Chris Christie the private citizen for putting his health first.
    Having said that, I would never vote for Chris Christie as President of the United States.
    The man lacks emotional discipline and is mentally and emotionally unfit to handle the well being of not only this great country of ours, but the well being of the entire world leadership and all its peoples.

    May 7, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  8. Sue

    Someone posted earlier that you can "beat the system" with the gastric bypass. This is certainly not true – I know at least 3 people who had this (major) surgery, and after the initial drastic weightloss, they are now bigger than they originally were. If you eat small amounts of very fattening food consistently, you will regain the weight. Also, it is possible to stretch out the stomach all over again. Personally, if I were to do something so drastic, I would not want to screw it up, but it happens pretty often from what I can see. Overeating is a psychological issue for sure, and it takes more than surgery to fix that. Aside from that, best of luck to Governor Christie. He's a likable man, for a Republican, and that is coming from a Democrat (a bleeding liberal, at that).

    May 7, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  9. Not Buying IT

    Does anyone believe that he did this for his family? The guy has been obese for twenty years! This confirms his 2016 presidential run.

    May 7, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  10. Michael

    I am disappointed that he is trying for an instant and easy way to getting back to a normal weight rather than changing his unhealthy habits and lifestyle. If he relies on fast and painless solutions for himself instead of making healthy lifestyle changes, what does it say about his way of governing? Our country needs to make some fundamental changes in our ineffective political system and undisciplined and out-of-control socio-economic habits and patterns. The ineffective and mindless changes proposed by our leaders while they continue to rake in obscene personal wealth and enjoy lavish lifestyles is similar to relying on lap-band surgery to change a dysfunctional way of living.

    May 7, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  11. Jc

    Good for him. Hope he slims down. It was funny for a while hearing the fat jokes, but after the first year it started getting old. I think Christie would be a good candidate, and I hope he gets down to a weight where people no longer make those comments.

    May 7, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  12. Mark

    Good for him, there is nothing bad we can say about a decision like that. I differ with him on many issues but this decision is not politics.

    May 7, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  13. Bob

    But I thought he was oh so healthy and that his weight was no issue at all (thats according to him)??

    May 7, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  14. Freddo

    Why he's doing it is his business.

    Leave Christie alone.

    May 7, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  15. Sniffit

    Meh. Is what it is. People who have health problems and have access to insurance and/or the means to pay for treatment...they get that treatment.

    May 7, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  16. us_1776

    Christie may survive more than 5 years now.

    The guy certainly would have died without this surgery.


    May 7, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  17. Robyn

    and it has got NOTHING to do with his desperate
    grasping unquenchable need to be President.
    (Isn't that sweet)

    Unfortunately, like most of the people these days
    who spend a decade or more running for President.
    I'm pretty sure Mr. Christie would cut his own head
    off and graft a cow head in it's place, if he thought
    it would give him a 2% bump in the polls.

    May 7, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  18. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    This won't change his lack of care for the poor (not raising the minimum wage; cutting payments to the poor etc). He doesn't have the thinking that a real governor requires. He may be a likeable person, but he is an ideologue that doesn't fully understand that he is no longer a prosecutor and now an administrator since that is the large part of a govenor's job.

    May 7, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  19. Alex

    I'm not a democrat, nor would I ever vote for one, so I'm really glad Christie is taking these steps.

    May 7, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  20. glorydays

    Good for him. I'm glad.

    May 7, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  21. John King

    If you want to lose weight, stop eating so much. It's that simple.

    May 7, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  22. Janet

    Thank you!!!! we absolutely adore you! I don't care if you did this for your health or politics.. taking care of yourself is the best message you can send to this nation and your family! good luck to you!

    May 7, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. LV

    God Bless you..and you family. I am pulling for you from deep in the heart of Texas.

    May 7, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  24. cali girl

    What took him so long to do something about his weight? I am glad he finally did, he was at risk for many health problems.

    May 7, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  25. zaphed

    who really cares? isnt this how 60 percent of america looks like? cant do anything anymore.

    May 7, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
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