Gov. Christie bristles at critics, says secret Lap-Belt surgery was not career-motivated

Posted at 7:55 PM, May 07, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-07 21:28:02-04

It’s quick, non-invasive weight loss surgery, but Governor Chris Christie accused the news media of invading his privacy now that he’s admitting to having secretly undergone a laparoscopic procedure.

“This is an intensely personal issue for people,” the New Jersey governor said at a press conference Friday afternoon in Newark.  “And only people who have gone through being overweight can understand how that can dominate your thoughts everyday.”

The governor’s comments were the first public statement he’s made about his mid-February outpatient surgery, which he said lasted about an hour, and left him with minor pain for a few days.

The procedure took place less than two weeks after Christie made an appearance on Late Night With David Letterman, and stole the show by pulling out a doughnut from his pocket and eating it, just as Letterman began to comment about how Christie’s weight had been the subject of many of the late night host’s jokes.

That television broadcast occurred days after Dr. Connie Mariano, who had been the White House physician under Bill Clinton, publicly expressed concern for Gov. Christie’s obesity.

“I worry about him dying in office,” said the doctor who’s now based in Arizona.  “I worry he’ll have a heart attack, he may have a stroke,” she said.  She has identified herself as a Republican who wants Chris Christie to one day run for president.

However, his response to her early February comment was by no means pleasant.  “If she wants to get on a plane and come to New Jersey, and ask me if she wants to examine me, I’ll have a conversation about that,” the governor said the first week of February.  “But until then, she should shut up.”

Nonetheless, it may have raised a red flag, since the governor now admits to having checked into surgery under an alias two-and-a-half months ago. He said at a 50-minute news conference at the groundbreaking of a new addition to Newark Tech High School that his choice of weight loss method is a private matter.

“Understand how intensely personal this is,” the governor said, as part of a question and answer session that left some in the audience at Newark Tech groaning over the subject matter that they had thought would be about their school, instead of Gov. Christie’s waistline.

A look at New Jersey’s chief executive, in comparison to how he appeared 11 weeks ago, shows his jackets a bit more loose and his jowls less fulsome.  Some reports indicate that he has lost about 40 pounds.

“When you’re that big, like governor Christie,” Dr. Steve Salvatore said, “You’re used to eating a lot at every meal.  All of a sudden your plate that used to be this big, is now this big,” the host of PIX11’s Dr. Steve Show said, gesturing with his hands to show the difference between a 12-inch diameter circle and a 6-inch one.

The procedure reduces weight by using small incisions to place a silicone belt around the top of the stomach.  The belt is tightened, creating a small pouch at the digestive system’s entrance to the stomach, which fills up with food, rather than the whole stomach.  People who have the procedure done end up feeling full during a meal much faster than they would otherwise.

The governor denied that undergoing the process had been to make himself more physically attractive for a possible run for higher office.  “The fact that of the matter,” Christie said, “is that everybody has to make these decisions for themselves, and I understand that as well as anybody, having gone through this for the last twenty years.”

As private as he claimed the decision to be, the governor’s aides have said off the record that he consulted with New York Jets coach Rex Ryan about the procedure.  Ryan lost more than 100 pounds after he’d undergone the surgery.

However, for it to be fully effective, “You still have to eat right and exercise,” said Dr. Steve, who added that both of those actions are important in any weight loss regimen, whether or not surgery is a part of it.

Somebody who knows that all too well is someone who, like Chris Christie, has been a Republican governor.  Mike Huckabee of Arkansas lost more than 100 pounds without undergoing surgery. After shedding the weight, Huckabee ran for president.

Christie insists that his political career and his weight control method are not directly related.