Behind Chris Christie’s Secret Surgery

A plastic surgeon talks about Governor Christie's weight loss procedure.

Chris Christie

Governor Chris Christie in 2012. Photo via Shutterstock

By now, you’ve probably seen the headlines about Chris Christie’s secret weight loss surgery. Reports surfaced recently that the notoriously overweight New Jersey governor quietly underwent gastric band surgery, a procedure in which a band is placed around the stomach pouch to inhibit the amount of food the patient can eat, in February of this year.

Christie, in his trademark unapologetic style, defended his decision at a press conference earlier this week, saying the surgery does not affect the public and that he is not a spokesman for the overweight population. A Washington Post article quotes Christie:

“I do not see myself nor do I care to be a role model in this regard for anyone; this is an intensely personal issue,” he said. “No matter what happens with me … the fact of the matter is everyone has to make these decisions for themselves.”

And, he added at the press conference, the surgery had nothing to do with critics who said being overweight could hinder potential presidential runs:

“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 [his wife] and the kids and going, ‘I have to do this for them, even if I don’t give a crap about myself,’” he said.

As for whether Christie has lost weight—a fact the Post reports his staffers would not disclose—Dr. Michael Yaremchuk, a Boston plastic surgeon, says it’s likely that the governor has lost some weight by now. But he adds that gastric band surgery makes dropping pounds more difficult than gastric bypass surgery, a procedure that shrinks the size of the stomach and prevents the digestive system from absorbing the full caloric content of food, even though band surgery is “metabolically safer than bypass procedures.”

Nonetheless, Yaremchuk says it’s very possible that Christie’s surgery will be effective. “If he adheres to diet, [he] could lose a few pounds per week. However, if one eats constantly, the food and calories pass through the narrowed opening,” Yaremchuk explains. “It takes more willpower to make it successful, as a patient cannot continue to eat throughout the day.”

It is this possibility of failure, Yaremchuk guesses, that would make Christie decide to have the procedure in secret. “He probably wanted to get an idea if he could comply with the diet,” Yaremchuk says. “He likely would not want to broadcast it to the world that he had the surgery and then tell the audience he could not comply with the diet.”