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. Larry in Houston

    If I was Christy – I would get on the horn and call Hillary – I mean it's a wonder he's not ticked off because him & bob McDonnell wasn't invited to the C-PAC – & was shunned by their own party – lol – can u imagine him & Hillary running together ? with Christy being her veep ? lol like I said before, it would be "game over" for the repubs. But he will never do such a thing, it's just a fantasy.

    May 7, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  2. I think

    Hillary and Christie could save this country in 2016...a mixed party presidency might be what we need.

    May 7, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  3. Ronnie Jackson

    I can't rip the guy because I'm starting to like him but he should take better care of himself.

    May 7, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  4. Jennifer

    If he has any self-control, he can just eat less and not have to go under the knife. If a person cannot even control himself eating a little bit less each day, can he be a president?!

    May 7, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  5. joegoofinoff

    heaven forbid anyone just stop eating all that food and lose weight normally.

    May 7, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  6. Javadude54

    Good for him. I hope he manages to get down to a weight that isn't a death sentence.

    May 7, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  7. sammieb51

    His conservative politics don't thrill me, but I do like the guy - he gets things done and is his own man. Both very rare in a poltician, esp a Republican. I wish him the best. If Hillary is the nominee 2016 and he is the GOP nominee, that would be a good fair fight, or as fair as politics can be these days! At least it would be an intelligent fight. Imagine having some dithering fool like Rand Paul on the GOP ticket.

    May 7, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  8. ugh

    I'm still not voting for you.....

    May 7, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  9. twt

    He knows Americans won't vote for an obese candidate for POTUS

    May 7, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  10. buffalo

    For a Republican, this guy seems to have his head on right. His work with Obama during Hurricane Sandy was almost a career-killer. I think he showed that common sense trumps party lines any day. I encourage him to be an example for his party and his kids.

    May 7, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  11. Smart Move, Governor

    Good for him, and best of luck on his health journey!!

    May 7, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  12. derft

    He can't slim down the normal way? I have a relative who did this and had it reversed – the band started to disintegrate! And you are limited to certain foods. She opted for gastric bypass which that and of itself makes you a prisoner to food. These people including my relative have eating disorders which they aren't addressing with these procedures..

    May 7, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  13. Uthor

    Best wishes to him. He earned my respect when he stood up to the Republicans who shut off the emergency funding after Hurricane Sandy. Unlike many politicians, he seems genuine.

    May 7, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  14. Hippocrite

    He tells the middle class to tighten their belts and suffer through his budget cuts. Yet this fat slob goes out and pays for surgery. "Struggling for years" my rear end, that man was morbidly obese and showed no signs at any time of trying to lose the weight. While in office he got fatter and fatter.

    The man can't even control his weight and you want him to run a country? Please.

    May 7, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  15. JV12

    The joys of public life.

    May 7, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  16. GenYer

    Weight loss does not automatically = healthy. You can lose weight by eating less, sure. Eating processed, sugary and fried foods will still make one unhealthy. Not exercising and not being active is also not healthy. Diabetes, heart attacks, high cholesterol and the like happen to thin people, too. Obesity is not OK, either. Normally, when one eats healthy and exercises, though, obesity wont be an issue. There is no magical surgery or magical pill that will let you live an unhealthy life style with no unhealthy consequences. The lap band can help, but it is up to Christie to have the will power to live a healthy life style.

    May 7, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. kriz

    "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."
    ..and henceforth will be known as Fat 'Christie' Tuesday!

    May 7, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  18. jj

    I would support a Hillary-Pres/Christie-VP ticket in 2016!

    May 7, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  19. SeattleMM

    He'll never get my vote, but I wish him success on his weight loss journey.

    May 7, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  20. iceload9

    As for Christie running for president, why not? Weight doesn't determine a good president, heart and a moral compass does.

    May 7, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  21. mar2013

    This is more in support of the procedure than of Christie. I have a good friend who had lap band done a few years ago. She was not eating junk food but wasn't the fittest person either. She is now very conscious of what she eats and makes it a point to go to the gym. she's a lot more disciplined than I am and I've never had weight issues. There are people out there who won't benefit from lap band because their habits/lifestyle won't change. They will lose weight initially and then plateau. It remains to be seen where Christie's level of commitment with this lies.

    May 7, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  22. Mark

    Do any of the commenters criticizing his "lack of discipline" have any personal knowledge of his eating and exercise habits, or are you simply drawing conclusions based on his size or his politics?

    May 7, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  23. kenkatth

    Yes..we all know it's SO MUCH EASIER TO GET SURGERY than to STOP EATING LIKE A PIG. This is disgusting. Are we all supposed to CHEER for this fat slob!??

    May 7, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  24. Disgruntled_Girl

    First he kills a spider and now lapband surgery. Did he drink the Kardarshian Koolaid to suddenly get the media focused on him? This is some ridiculous stuff.
    Except the mentions in the comments about Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie. I would be ALL IN for a mixed party ticket. As a Republican that's had to vote Dem twice because the qualifications of the Republicans running for Presidency seemed to be ONLY "don't dump a load in your britches in public", I'm already about mixing up the parties. Actually .. we need to get rid of them.

    May 7, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  25. steveo

    I would never vote for someone so lazy they had to have the lazy fat man surgery to try and become fit.

    May 7, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
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