Gov. Chris Christie had secret weight loss surgery

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie attends a town hall meeting in Manasquan, N.J., on March 21, 2013. AP Photo/Mel Evans

TRENTON, N.J. Gov. Chris Christie secretly underwent gastric band surgery in February to try to lose weight at the urging of his family, spokesman Michael Drewniak told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The father of four agreed to the surgery, in which a tube was placed around his stomach to restrict the amount of food he can eat, after turning 50 in September. Christie told The New York Post, which first reported the surgery, that he said he wasn't motivated by thoughts of running for president.

"I've struggled with this issue for 20 years," he told the newspaper. "For me, this is about turning 50 and looking at my children and wanting to be there for them."

Both history and skeptics indicate, however, this may not be entirely a health choice for Christie.

"He went in and had outpatient surgery on Presidents Day weekend, to make sure everything is sufficiently parallel here," CBS News political director John Dickerson said on "CBS This Morning." "You know, remember that (former Mississippi Governor) Haley Barbour said, 'If I lose 50 pounds, it's because I'm running for president or I got sick.' Chris Christie in typical fashion is cutting to the chase doing this."

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee also lost a lot of weight before his unsuccessful presidential bid.

Christie has never disclosed his weight. But he joked about his size during a February appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman," pulling out a doughnut and saying his girth was "fair game" for comedians, who had made fun of his size for years.

Christie was soon angered by comments from a former White House physician who said she worried about him dying in office. The governor said Dr. Connie Mariano should "shut up."

Days later, on Feb. 16, Christie had the surgery. He said the operation lasted 40 minutes and he was home the same afternoon.

"A week or two ago, I went to a steakhouse and ordered a steak and ate about a third of it and I was full," he told the Post.

Christie declined to say how much weight he has lost since the surgery.

The Republican governor is running for a second term in November, although his name is often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate.

"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,'" he said.

Gastric band surgery is pitched as a minimally invasive procedure. One version of it is sold under the brand name Lap-Band. Its website says the surgery is appropriate for adults who have failed with more conservative alternatives, such as diet and exercise.

Christie has talked about working with a personal trainer since he first ran for governor four years ago.

The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery says that about 200,000 people in the U.S. have weight loss surgery each year.

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