New Jersey Governor Chris Christie loudly advertised his sense of denial about his weight. He mocked himself by eating a doughnut on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and boasted that he is “the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen.” He said Clinton-era White House physician Connie Mariano should “shut up” when she openly worried that he might have a heart attack. To some extent, he was fighting back against those who consider a person’s weight an appropriate topic for small talk — it’s not — but he was also mocking the whole notion of obesity as a life-threatening illness.
But credit Christie, who turned 50 last year, for finally hearing his doctor’s message that “my luck is going to run out,” and realizing that he wanted to be around to enjoy his children. He disclosed to the New York Post this week that he secretly underwent surgery in February to have a band placed around his stomach to restrict the amount of food he can eat.
Some political observers immediately engaged in cynical speculation about whether Christie was trying to make himself more visually appealing as a presidential candidate in 2016. That only perpetuates the idea that weight loss is only a matter of aesthetics. For people who are severely overweight, it’s a matter of good health.
As a nationally recognized politician and a prospective presidential candidate, Christie has a chance to be a role model for others who are struggling with extreme obesity. Bariatric surgery is performed on 220,000 Americans a year; other celebrity patients include weatherman Al Roker and New York Jets football coach Rex Ryan. Anyone contemplating the surgery should carefully consider the potential side effects and dangers. But Christie’s story isn’t a testament to one procedure, but rather the willingness to commit to a weight-loss strategy for the sake of one’s health. And who knows? Maybe one day Christie will go back on the Letterman show, without the doughnut, to declare he is the healthiest weight-loss patient you’ve ever seen.