New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie goes on Dave Letterman and eats doughnuts, but then has the nerve to tell accomplished doctors to "shut up" when they discuss his weight. No, Gov. Christie — you shut up.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie goes on Dave Letterman and eats doughnuts, but then has the nerve to tell accomplished doctors to “shut up” when they discuss his weight. No, Gov. Christie — you shut up.

It was only three months ago that N.J. Governor Chris Christie responded to Dr. Connie Mariano’s concerns about his weight by saying she was “just another hack who wants to be on TV.”

At the time, here is what I said regarding the guy who is so smart that he diffuses the “war on women” mantra by telling a successful female doctor to “shut up.”:

Gov. Christie has no self-control when it comes to calories. He has shown no self-discipline when it comes to exercise. Those faults also rear their ugly head every time he channels MSNBC’s resident blowhard Chris Matthews during a testy press conference or town hall meeting. He is not presidential material, he cannot at the present moment inspire the nation, and he would be crushed by Hillary Clinton in a landslide if the stars ever aligned in such a way as to pit the two of them against each other for the highest office in the land. Conservatives need to start working now to take him out of the running.

It turns out that just around the time Dr. Mariano was voicing her concerns about Mr. Christie’s weight, he was scheduled for “lap band” surgery.

The New York Times reports:

[L]ike some overweight politicians before him, Mr. Christie has embarked on a major effort to shed pounds at a time when his eyes are on the presidency. Saying that “a whole bunch of other things” had not worked, he revealed on Tuesday that he had undergone weight loss surgery three months ago. He is now 40 pounds lighter.

Mr. Christie, a Republican, said concerns about his family, not politics, drove him to undergo the “Lap-Band” procedure, in which a silicone band is placed around the stomach to discourage overeating.

Interesting. So the doctor to President George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush looked at a guy who was laying the groundwork for a presidential run and commented on his health, and she’s told to “shut up.” And yet, that very same guy was scheduled for lap-band surgery. It seems as though if Christie was desperate enough to get such a procedure done, the smart thing to do in that situation would have been for him to shut up.

Regardless, I am not a fan of this procedure and would like to know what the “whole bunch of things” Christie tried were. Since exercise has always been a large part of my life (I was even lucky enough to manage a gym for a period of time), I’ve met plenty of people who claim to have “tried everything” when the reality is quite the opposite.

In 1991, the NIH gave a consensus statement on who should get the surgery. I asked a physician for a summary of their findings. Gov. Christie had to meet criteria along the following guidelines:

1) BMI >40
or
2) BMI of 35-40 plus an obesity associated comorbidity: severe diabetes, Pickwickian syndrome, cardiomyopathy, severe sleep apnea, or osteoarthritis that interferes with activities of daily living.
and
3) Are motivated and well informed, have failed attempts at diet and exercise, and are free from psychological disease. They should also be compliant with post-op diet and exercise routines.
Pre-operative workup requires a psychological evaluation, nutritional counseling, and a medical evaluation.
Complications include the following: infection, bleeding, band slippage, band erosion into the gastric lining, dilated esophagus, vomiting, heart burn, stomach perforation, injury to the spleen, and mechanical device failure.
Patients cannot tolerate solid foods in the initial periods after surgery and even though they are eventually transitioned to solids, they still may have regurgitation and dysphagia to whole meats and heavy breads.
Effectiveness: the adjustable lap band is extremely effective at producing weight loss, however, as many as a quarter of patients fail to shed 50% of their excess weight by 5 years. 
Sources
*Guidelines for Practical Application of Laparoscipic Bariatric Surgery from the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES). http://www.sages.org/publications/guidelines/guidelines-for-clinical-application-of-laparoscopic-bariatric-surgery/

Are there people out there who have genetic disorders that cause them to struggle with their weight? Sure. But the vast majority of Americans do not fall into that category.

When most people say they’ve “tried exercising” they say it like a teenager who says he “studied” when really he just went through the motions long enough to convince himself the lie was the truth. (How can anyone study when it’s time to call the girlfriend?)

When people say they’ve tried “diets” what they are usually doing is admitting that deep down they aren’t prepared to change their lifestyle to achieve a set of desired results. Diets are temporary; your lifestyle is forever.

Over and over and over again I hear people talk about the “Western” diet. It’s bull. I’m sorry to be blunt, but that’s a crutch. Anyone with half a brain and a real desire to figure out what’s going on with their body will be able to do the research and make the changes necessary to get where they want to be.

When I turned 30 years old I started gaining weight. I had no idea why, considering I was still working out as I always had and my diet had not changed. Obviously, my metabolism slowed down slightly, but after going over my diet with a good friend it turned out that I was consuming massive amounts of sugar through fruit juices. I cut off the juices, and over the course of eight months I lost 20 lbs. The guy who never paid attention to food labels because he could burn off whatever he ate (the joy of being a long distance runner!) suddenly had to think a little about the things he was shoving down his throat. I modified my diet to deal with the new reality, and I’m in arguably better shape at 34 than I was at 30.

Who is that skinny cross country kid who could eat 3,000 calories in a sitting an laugh it off because an 8-mile run was coming later in the day? Oh, wait, that's me. Metabolism doesn't quite work that way at 34.
Who is that skinny cross country kid who could eat 3,000 calories in a sitting an laugh it off because an 8-mile run was coming later in the day? Oh, wait, that’s me. Metabolism doesn’t quite work that way at 34.

I truly hope that Gov. Christie’s surgery is successful. I wish he would have gone a different route, but now that it’s done and over with I hope that he leads a long and healthy life with his family and friends by his side.

With that said, I still can’t help but believe that his weight problems have more to do with a lack of self-discipline than with malfunctioning biological processes — and while he might tell me to “shut up” because I’m not a medical doctor, I would counter that it is his own press conferences and bizarre outbursts aimed at constituents that have led me to such a conclusion.

Is it cathartic to see union thugs get an earful from Christie on occasion? Sure, but that doesn’t make his politics or his approach right. And it’s really not kosher when a governor goes around trying to discredit medical doctors for making astute observations about his weight, only to then take drastic measures behind the scenes trying to rectify what he wanted everyone to “shut up” over.

Gov. Chris Christie owes Dr. Connie Mariano an apology. It’s really that simple. And if he does so, I’ll give him a cookie. Or a piece of broccoli. Or some black beans. Whatever goes easiest post lap-band surgery.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

35 comments

  1. He took a serious step toward correcting his obesity. To me, that’s apology enough. I also don’t believe any exercise program short of Olympic-level training will correct for a diet too high in carbs, fat, sugar and salt. We Americans DO have a terrible “typical” diet! And the lower you are on the economic scale, the more likely you are to be consuming the worst food, because “fast food” is cheaper. Once you get as far gone into metabolic syndrome as Christie was, proper diet and exercise would take years to reverse the damage, and you might not live long enough given the cardiac and musculo-skeletal strain.

    1. 1. No, that’s not an apology. If someone tells me to do something, I tell them off, and then I begrudgingly do what they said later because deep down I know they’re right, how is that an apology? It’s not. The Dr. he told to “shut up” was vindicated, but he did not apologize.

      2. Exactly. We have a choice to either eat a diet high in sugars and carbs, or we don’t. My point was that anyone with a brain who is gaining weight can figure it out. What is the point of food labels and the internet if you’re going to continue to shove Twinkies and Mountain Dew down your throat? In my case, it was fruit juice. As I started to gain weight I used my brain to figure out what was going on with my body, and made the proper course correction.

      3. You’ve been misled. “Fast food” is easier — it’s not necessarily cheaper. I eat a very healthy diet, and I do so for not much money by any almost any standard you can come up with. I won’t get into my personal finances, but I was technically considered “poor” for quite a few years when I first moved to DC and definitely “poor” for my first few jobs after school. Tuna, black beans, spinach, green beans, eggs, tomatoes, etc. are all incredibly cheap. Milk can be expensive, but I can’t remember the last time I bought it (because, again, people have been misled into believing that must be their main source of calcium). Finally, beef can be pricey, but it depends on the cut you’re buying. Educate yourself on the right cuts, and you can get incredible deals all the time.

      Even if I was to concede your point that it would “take years” for Christie to get back to normal health, whose fault is that? It’s his. Some sort of thyroid condition aside — or other biological abnormality beyond his control — I don’t not feel for him. The vast majority of Americans who are obese are that way because of choices they made that were completely under their control. You can believe all you want that it would take “Olympic size” training to get results, but you’re wrong. In fact, it’s just the opposite: it takes many, many small steps that will add up to Olympic-sized weight loss and improved health. And if Christie has a diet high in carbs and salt, again that’s his fault. That is why discipline and self-control are so important.

  2. Side note: Anyone who says that it takes “years” to reverse course on a bad diet and the body that resulted from it is just wrong. A simple Google search of the Body for Life challenge destroys that argument in its place. Bill Phillips has been giving people the tools they need to transform themselves for “years” and it doesn’t take nearly as long as people looking for an excuse want it to be.

  3. His choice to be “wrong” and eat if he wants to. Perhaps he told her to shut up because it’s not her (or your) business to give unsolicited advice about how he enjoys his time (my guess is that it’s eating). You have the right to not vote for him in a presidential election if you think he can’t control himself (with donuts or in angry outbursts), but he is entitled to pursue happiness, even if it is in a “high fat, high carb, high salt” diet. Sheesh. Pop culture indeed! No problem, it’s in the title of your blog.

    I almost feel a little dirty, like I’m perusing the articles on daily mail talking about how fat Kim Kardashian’s getting because she’s pregnant. (No, really Kim, you’re in the public eye, put down the breadsticks.. gluten is bad for you..)

    1. He is a public figure. If he wants to go on David Letterman and eat donuts and crack jokes about his weight, then he shouldn’t tell others to “shut up” when they talk about it, especially the doctor who served three U.S. presidents. I think if anyone has the moral authority to speak on such an issue, it is she. And if he wants to run for the highest office in the land, then it is certainly within bounds to talk about his obesity and the impact it will have on his ability to perform the role’s core function — to protect the American people.

      No one is forcing you to come here. When I come to your house and start talking to you about your weight, feel free to chastise me. When it comes to politicians who have aspirations to become the Commander in Chief, you’ll have to forgive me if I shrug off your comparisons of this blog to a tabloid site.

      I write about fitness. I write about politics. I write about popular culture. It should not come as a surprise when readers find a post that includes those elements.

    2. I like your blog because I enjoy the same things you like to write about, including fitness and a healthy lifestyle (not including comic books).

      You said he should apologize to her because he got lap band surgery after telling her to shut up. I’m just saying, no, I don’t think he needs to. If she wanted to reach out to him with concerns about him falling over dead, pick up the phone, don’t do it on TV. His response seemed like he was pretty upset over his kids watching that interview on TV. I would have been too if a doctor who had never examined me was on TV talking about how I might die. But she did (rude) so he told her to shut up (also rude). That’s fair, but not the gentleman’s way.

      As far as donut eating, still, his choice, consequences and all. Just like it’s your choice to get concerned when you put on 20lbs from fruit juice. Your priority was to be in shape and get rid of that juice belly, his might be to eat a dozen krispy kremes because they taste good. Now I’m just feeling silly to be writing about this, because come on.. integrity, service before self, honor, looking hot in a speedo… And I know you didn’t say that. My point is: people, even politicians, have the right to eat and be fat if they want to. Just like Obama has the right to smoke ciggys if he wants to. I only have a problem with it if I’m paying for your obesity related illnesses (shoot!) To me, it’s annoying that public figures always have to defend their choices that aren’t really hurting anyone because someone else has a different standard or priorities. You want him to exercise and eat healthy because it impacts protecting Americans, don’t vote for him. That is his consequence for overeating and being lazy. Which is why he got surgery, because he wants votes, and his kids were scared.. not because he stopped liking donuts.

      Side note: I wish politicians would exercise integrity. Obama is a big fat liar and no one cares because he’s cool.

    3. Doug, what did I say that needed un-tactful correction? I don’t think you’re a bad person because you eat paleo or run 10k’s, that’s fine if that’s what floats your boat. If Chris Christie’s boat floats to 10 bowls of fruit loops, okay buddy, float the boat (or sink it), you’re in the USA!

      Eating isn’t the only way you can judge a lack of self control, just an obvious one.

      I feel guilty when I’m on Daily Mail because I’m purposefully reading articles that are ALL about outfits, weight gain, hair color, botox, etc. Wouldn’t it be great it if wasn’t in our culture to judge people based on superficial garbage?

      MeAgain, if it makes doug feel any better, I think you’re a fool sometimes too. Aren’t we all, which makes us all alike and wonderfully imperfect 🙂

    4. Eve,

      This blog is something I do after work. There’s a good amount of effort that goes into posting five quality stories a week with links, pictures, etc. So when someone says they “feel dirty” reading my blog, or when it’s compared to a site that gives way too much coverage to Kim Kardashian … it is difficult for me to hold my fire.

      With that said, I always welcome your feedback. Agree or disagree with me — your post will go up and I will almost always respond as soon as I get a chance.

      Thanks for reading.

    5. Oh, Eve. My poor fellow masochist. Haven’t you figured it out yet? Agree with Doug, he thanks you for your comment. Disagree, he dishes some contempt your way. We are wrong and he is right. But, it’s his blog and if we don’t like it, we can leave. It still hasn’t registered with him that persuasion would help his cause far greater than exclusion. Or that we may like some of his articles but not others. Maybe be more appreciative that people took time out of their lives to not only read his work, but comment too–even if he disagrees with us?

      The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend. – Abraham Lincoln

      A minor quible, but the “core” duty of the president isn’t to “protect the people.” It’s to ensure the laws of the US are executed.

    6. That he was tactful given my biting comments comparing his blog to a tabloid? Yes, he was nice and I was mean. Not that he showed that same courtesy to big, fat stupid Chris Christie.

    7. The only thing I will add is that you seem to think that I care what Christie’s physical appearance looks like. I don’t. I care about what’s going on inside his body, particularly if he is going to have what is arguably the most stressful job in the world (i.e., protecting the American people).

    1. I’ve had some friends who were big guys, but I do not want an obese president if at all possible. And I definitely don’t one who thinks he can tell anyone who annoys him to “shut up” when he’s a public figure. And I REALLY don’t want one who resorts to price controls the second an emergency hits because he’s too inarticulate to explain basic economics to blue state drones.

  4. conservatives know how to hold grudges; they’re still trying to punish Christie for being nice to Obama during super storm Sandy.

    1. Actually, I don’t care about that. You’re wrong. Blaming Romney’s loss on Christie is what losers do.

      Christie annoys me because a.) He’s not conservative, but tries to pass himself off as one, and b.) I don’t like his style. For every justified time he goes off on someone, there are three where it’s completely uncalled for.

      If Mitt Romney was successfully portrayed as someone who wakes up everyone morning devising ways to belittle and impugn women over the course of months, then Chris Christie will be destroyed in weeks, if not days.

    2. I don’t like Christie, either. He’s not a conservative, he’s another RINO. The only reason the media likes him now is because he helped make the GOP look bad during Hurricane Sandy. That’s it. Otherwise they’d still be ribbing him for his weight.

  5. Gov. Christie does not owe Dr. Mariano an apology or anything else. If she is going to make public comments about a sensitive subject (a person’s weight), she can expect to take a public smack-down. Christie could have been more diplomatic, but then, so could Dr. Mariano. Christie is a former prosecutor with a conviction rate of 100%. He is a tough guy, and Mariano was a fool to antagonize him.

    People who are overweight generally know that they are, and the good doctor was also wrong to assume a level of intimacy between herself and the Governor where it does not exist. The same thing happens with disability: people feel they have the right to make personal comments and ask personal questions as if the person with a disability has no right to privacy.

    Those of us who actually live in New Jersey (my adopted state) still give Gov. Christie high favorability marks. He looks a lot better to us than Jim (“I’m a gay American”) McGreevy, or Jon (“I have no idea where the money went”) Corzine. Christie is not perfect, and undoubtedly could not win a national election. But we have no doubt about his love and loyalty for New Jersey, and that’s what matters to us.

    1. How could Mariano have been more diplomatic? She was the doctor to three presidents who was asked by a reporter if she would be concerned about Christie’s weight if he was elected. She answered as a medical professional who has been responsible for the health and well being of, again, three presidents. That’s a far cry from Christie saying she should “shut up” and that she was a hack who was essentially commenting for attention.

    2. So now a doctor can’t comment on the general health risks of obesity regarding a guy who clearly has a weight problem?

      Let’s apply that logic to all sorts of specialists who are asked to comment on public figures and see how that goes… My goodness.

    3. So now a politician can’t tell someone to shut up when they go on TV and opine about your weight and likelihood of death without ever having examined you? Without having apologies demanded and “war on women” brought up? Ummm.. That sounds like a familiar routine…

      Here’s how Christie should have responded: “I would like to thank Dr. Mariano for publicly letting me know I have a weight problem. I was completely unaware up to that point. Without her televised statement, my kids would have never known I might fall over and die from a heart attack any moment. Also, could you please send me a bill for your professional advice? Really though, can you put a price on saving a life? *wink*”

      Doug, you should start paying your doctor for drawing conclusions about your health by just looking at you.

    4. You do know that there are a host of generalities that can be deduced about a person simply by looking at them — with a high degree a certainty — if you’re a medical professional, right (e.g., diabetic dermopathy)?

      And let us put this in proper context, shall we? Chris Christie went on Letterman, ate a doughnut, and made his weight a big “fat” joke. He made it a joke, and then Dr. Mariano was asked about it. Here’s her big bad comment:

      “I’m worried he may have a heart attack. I’m worried he may have a stroke,” (Dr. Connie Mariano, February 5, 2013).

      So Christie makes a joke out of the issue on national television, a highly certified doctor then gives her opinion when asked, and she’s out of line? Have fun making that case to a constituency outside New Jersey.

      Wow. What a vicious personal attack. That totally warranted Gov. Christie telling her to “shut up” and accusing her of seeking attention … when it was CNN that sought her out.

    5. Aww, Doug, my last (accidental anon) comment didn’t go up.. You aren’t censoring, are you?

  6. Better yet: let’s see her comment publicly on the general health risks of promiscuous sex and snorting cocaine, because one of her well known patients was engaging in both of those high-risk activities.

    Notice — no reporter ever asked Dr. Mariano about that. She was only asked about obesity, and the most popular GOP governor in the USA just happens to have that problem.

  7. “when it was CNN that sought her advice.” There you have it. Did CNN ask her advice about the health risks of cocaine use and promiscuous sex? Did Anderson Cooper ask the doctor about the health risks of buggery? CNN was only concerned about Christie’s weight?

    1. So now you’re shifting your fire to CNN. Got it.

      Christie goes on late night television and makes a mockery of his own weight, but medical professionals can’t say they’d worry about an obese man in the White House having a heart attack due to the stress associated with being the leader of the free world. Again, gotcha.

      And, again, I highly suggest trying this line of thought on voting populations outside of New Jersey.

      Cheers,

      Doug

  8. It has nothing to do with New Jersey or voting populations. The doctor should not have allowed herself to get sucked into an obvious CNN trap. She was not asked about the health problems or high risk activities of any other politician or prominent figure: only Christie’s obesity. It was very obvious that CNN had focused its sights on Chris Christie, just as they do to any Republican who poses a threat to the Leftist agenda.

    You asked how she could have been more diplomatic. She could have said, “If Gov. Christie were my patient, we would have a discussion about his health, and any possible concerns that I might have as his physician. It would be a private conversation, protected by doctor-patient confidentiality, and would not be discussed on TV or in the press.” If she had been asked about Bill Clinton’s high-risk activities, do you think she would have violated that confidentiality?

    She was stupid to discuss Christie’s weight with a reporter. She actually did behave as a “hack.” Your original premise was that Christie “owes” her an apology. And again I say, he owes her nothing.

    1. Those darn CNN “traps” again… Maybe specialists should just not talk to anyone except Fox. Maybe that would help. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have somewhere to be, which doesn’t involve eating doughnuts on David Letterman and then getting upset when people talk about my weight afterward.

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