The first-term Republican, who is seeking re-election in November, told the New York Post he was motivated by his wife and four children to have gastric banding, not by the possibility of running for president. The Feb. 16 procedure lasted 40 minutes and he was home in the afternoon, according to the newspaper.
The Post was the first to report the governor’s weight-loss surgery. Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, confirmed the story but declined to comment further.
Christie, who has struggled with his size since he stopped playing school sports, has said his weight doesn’t slow him and shouldn’t bar him from seeking the presidency.
During a Feb. 4 appearance on CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman,” the governor said that his cholesterol and blood-sugar levels were both within normal ranges during a physical exam ahead of his 50th birthday in September 2012. The governor nibbled on a doughnut as a gag during the interview.
“I’m basically the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen in your life,” he told the comedian, who replied that he should make it the slogan for his re-election campaign.
The governor told Letterman, who has made Christie’s girth the subject of his Top 10 lists, that his wife and kids prod him regularly to lose weight.
Bill Palatucci, a friend and political adviser who is chairman of Christie’s election campaign, said in an interview Tuesday that he had noticed a weight loss, though the surgery was “known only to his family, which is how it should be.”
“It’s very private,” Palatucci said by telephone. He declined to speculate on how much Christie had lost and wouldn’t comment on whether the loss signals a 2016 presidential run.
“He’s my friend first, and that’s what important,” he said.
The governor called him Monday night to say the story was coming out, Palatucci said.
“I asked how he was feeling and he said, ‘Good,’ and I said, ‘Great.’ ”
In July 2011, a shortness of breath related to chronic asthma forced Christie to detour to a hospital emergency room on the way to a news conference. When he was released after eight hours, he faced a barrage of questions from the national media about his health. He said his weight “exacerbates everything” and that he was working with a personal trainer.
In a December interview on the ABC network, he told Barbara Walters that his response to damage left by superstorm Sandy showed his weight hadn’t slowed him down and that it shouldn’t bar him from seeking the presidency.
In February, Christie called a former White House doctor who said he was dangerously overweight a “hack” and said she should “shut up” unless she examines him. The physician, Connie Mariano, had said on CNN that Christie could have a heart attack or stroke or die because of his weight.
About one-third of 200,000 weight-loss surgeries in the U.S. annually use gastric banding, wrapping small rubber devices around the upper stomach to limit capacity. Patients who undergo gastric banding with Lap-Band can have the device removed entirely if it’s problematic, or have it adjusted using saline infusions to tighten it.
Doctors have been raising concerns in the past several years about the effectiveness of Lap-Band and the risks of the procedure. About half of patients who had gastric banding needed to have the device removed, according to a 2011 study in the Archives of Surgery that found the treatment caused more complications, such as hernias, infection and band slippage, than weight loss.
About one in three had band erosion, which occurs when the band grows into the stomach.
The device’s maker, Allergan Inc., said in February that it will sell its Lap-Band unit after sales of the device fell 22 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 to $36.8 million.