Kudos to Chris Christie for fighting the battle of the bulge with surgery

Did New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie undergo lap band surgery in February in preparation for a run at the presidency in 2016?

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie lays out preparation plans for Hurricane Sandy in October. (Mel Evans - AP)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie lays out preparation plans for Hurricane Sandy in October. (Mel Evans – AP)

Who cares if that’s the reason. He did the right thing for his health, and maybe he’ll inspire more people to see how their weight puts them at risk for such conditions as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. After all, one-third of this country is obese and another third is overweight, according to the National Centers for Disease Control.

“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 told the New York Post, denying that a presidential bid was the reason for the surgery.

The secrecy shrouding the procedure, though, seems a little extreme. Apparently the surgeon, George Fielding, head of NYU Medical Center’s Weight Management Program, made house calls to Christie’s home. The governor checked into a surgery center for the outpatient procedure under an assumed name Feb. 16.

Christie declined to say how much he’s lost or how much he weighed in the first place, but for someone like the governor, who’s struggled with his weight for decades, the surgery may be the easiest way to slim down.

If Christie does aspire to the presidency, he’ll help his chances with a slimmer profile. There’s a glut of research out there showing that the overweight may face discrimination as severe as racial prejudice; it can hurt their chances of employment and even reduce their salaries. There’s also the bias in the media: How many fat heroes or heroines are out there? How often are they portrayed in a romantic relationship versus how frequently do they end up the butt of jokes? The CBS sitcom “Mike and Molly” is an exception, and star Melissa McCarthy is hot right now in spite of — or maybe because of — her excessive weight. But you certainly can’t say that two-thirds of the people in the entertainment business are overweight or obese.

It’s actually not Christie’s appearance that would worry me if he were to run in a presidential race but the health risks he would bring as excess baggage (we’ll leave politics out of the discussion for now). Would he be up to the physical demands of the office? What if he suffers a debilitating heart attack or stroke?

Let’s face it. We haven’t had a portly president since William Howard Taft, who left office a hundred years ago. At that time, he was 5 feet, 11 inches tall, and weighed between 335 and 340 pounds. (Some guess Christie’s weight as over 300 pounds.) One academic journal article says Taft’s BMI was at least 42 and that he suffered from obstructive sleep apnea,  which can be caused by excess weight, and which, in turn, caused daytime sleepiness, high blood pressure and “perhaps, cognitive and psychosocial impairment.”

Not exactly traits you want to see in the Oval Office.

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.
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Melinda Henneberger · May 7, 2013