Why N.J. Gov. Christie wants leader of national guard to lose weight

Gov. Christie says he’s losing weight, the old-fashioned way

In his forthcoming book, former White House transition team chairman Chris Christie claimed that Donald Trump once told him he needed to lose weight in order to make strides in the political world.

Trump told Christie at a dinner in 2005, «You gotta look better to be able to win,» Christie wrote in his new book, Let Me Finish, The Guardian reported on Tuesday based on an advance copy it obtained ahead of the January 29 release date.

Christie, a former New Jersey governor, wrote that Trump addressed him as if he were a contestant in the Miss Universe pageant, a competition that the future president owned. Christie also wrote that Trump again approached him about his weight during the 2016 presidential campaign, asking him to wear a longer tie to help him appear skinnier.

Christie made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination and afterward, in the summer 2016, tried to become Trump’s vice presidential running mate. Trump picked Mike Pence.

At a May 2016 fundraiser to pay off Christie’s presidential campaign debt, Trump publicly mocked Christie’s weight. Trump made the remark while talking about a Nabisco cookie plant that was moving out of Chicago to Mexico.

«I’m not eating Oreos anymore, you know that—but neither is Chris,» Trump said, pointing to Christie in the crowd. «You’re not eating Oreos anymore. No more Oreos. For either of us, Chris. Don’t feel bad.»

Christie’s weight was scrutinized in 2011 after he was hospitalized for breathing problems.

«The weight exacerbates everything,» Christie said when he left the hospital. «I’ve been pretty candid about that, right from the start of my public career. Christie also quietly underwent gastric-banding surgety in 2013.

«I weigh too much because I eat too much. And I eat some bad things too.»

While Trump has criticized Christie, the president isn’t in the best shape himself.

After his physical examination in January 2018, Trump was found to be 1 pound below the threshold for obesity put on a diet plan plan by Dr. Ronny Jackson to lose 10 to 15 pounds. The regimen included ditching his favorite foods—McDonald’s and red meat—for salads, fish and soup.

Christie was reportedly considered to be Trump’s next attorney general, but that did not materialize. Trump nominated William Barr, who was U.S. attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, whose confirmation hearing is happening Tuesday.

President-elect Donald Trump meets with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at the clubhouse of Trump National Golf Club, in Bedminister, New Jersey, on November 20, 2016. In his new book, Christie claims that Trump told him to lose weight “to win” in politics.DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

In his new book, Christie also detailed that he first met with Trump in 2002 for dinner at the Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City, and that Trump ordered for him. Trump apparently ordered scallops, which Christie is allergic to, and lamb, which Christie does not like. It led Christie to wonder if Trump considered him «one of his chicks.»

On September 22, news broke that governor and U.S. presidential candidate Chris Christie had given General Michael Cunniff, the leader of New Jersey’s 9,000 national guardsmen, a weighty ultimatum. The general had 90 days to slim down — or he would face dismissal.

As it turns out, General Cunniff did not meet the military’s basic combat-readiness criteria, and the governor was the one who had to issue the command.

In response, Cunniff said: «Many people struggle with weight control — I am not immune from this.»

The irony, of course, is that Governor Christie himself has had his own share of weight struggles. In fact, in 2013, the governor had surgery — known as a gastric band procedure — to close off a section of his stomach. At the time, experts believed he weighed in at more than 400 pounds.

Many people pointed the obvious finger at Governor Christie, accusing him of hypocrisy.

But I think these people missed the whole point.

Whatever you think of their politics or positions, there is no doubt that both Governor Christie and General Cunniff are smart, motivated, successful men.

And therein lies the powerful enigma of obesity.

More than two-thirds of all Americans are overweight. And right now, more than 108 million Americans are on a diet. The average dieter makes four or five attempts each year. And less than one percent of these attempts actually result in long-term weight loss.

We hear these statistics all the time, but I think we’ve become numb to what they’re actually telling us. Is there any other sphere of endeavor where so many people try so hard with so little success? What would we think if fewer than 1 percent of people who enrolled in college ever graduated, while the other 99 percent spent billions dropping out and re-enrolling four or five times each year?

Many of life’s problems can be solved by an onslaught of intelligence, ambition, motivation, and perseverance. But for the vast majority of people, that just isn’t true for weight. So clearly our approach and commonsense understanding are flawed.

The fact is that, for most people, lasting weight loss takes a lot more than willpower or desire. According to recent research, it takes a fresh understanding of how the brain interacts with food.

Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson is a tenured psychology professor with a Ph.D. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences. For 16 years she struggled under a torturous relationship with food. She dieted again and again, only to watch her weight balloon back up. She was clinically depressed, and, in her darkest hours, would lie in the fetal position and weep for a solution.

Finally in 2003, Dr. Thompson’s cognitive studies put her in the path of the answers she’d been seeking. She shrank from obese to slender in six months and today she’s among the top .01 percent of successful weight loss maintainers.

Now Dr. Thompson has created a program called Bright Line Eating to share what she’s learned about how the brain blocks weight loss and so far the results are promising. She reports that for the first 1,000 graduates, her program was three times more effective and seven times faster than Weight Watchers.

I asked Dr. Thompson if she had any insight into why Governor Christie and General Cunniff might be struggling to lose weight, despite intense scrutiny from the public and the threat to the viability of their future careers, not to mention their health.

She had this to say:

I don’t know them, of course, but my guess is that they’re both really high on the Susceptibility Scale. That’s the scale that measures how susceptible someone is to the addictive properties of refined foods. They’re not alone. Research shows that one-third of people are high on the Susceptibility Scale. It makes it nearly impossible to lose weight unless you understand what you’re up against. If you’re low on the Susceptibility Scale, indulging in a craving makes it go away. But if you’re highly susceptible, indulging just makes the craving stronger.

In evolutionary terms, Dr. Thompson explained to me, being highly susceptible was a good thing. But today we’re surrounded by cues to eat foods that have been refined to affect our brains exactly the same way as drugs do. We have a food industry that spends tens of billions of dollars every year marketing highly processed, highly sweetened, and highly addictive foods. In this context, being susceptible is seriously dangerous.

We live in a society that, all-too-often, blames overweight people for their suffering — as if they lacked willpower. But, according to Dr. Thompson, the problem isn’t at all a deficiency of willpower. The problem is that some of us are highly susceptible to food addiction — and have no roadmap to conquer it.

Fortunately, there are answers that can help. And Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson has developed something that appears like it could provide tremendous help to a lot of people.

Perhaps even Governor Christie and General Cunniff.

To find out how you score on Dr. Thompson’s Susceptibility Scale, take her free quiz here.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has noticeably lost weight in the last few years as a potential 2016 presidential run has crept closer and public discussion about his belly swirled. The Republican says that he has been losing weight to improve his health, but political operatives have noted that slimming down would be a good choice for the governor if he wanted to hang his hat in the White House. Christie is expected to announce his candidacy on Tuesday from his hometown of Livingston, New Jersey.

«You don’t have to be built like a track star to be president, which Bill Clinton proved, but you have to be within a certain range [of weight] because appearance matters,» Patrick Murray, a Monmouth University pollster told the Asbury Press last year. «Chris Christie was outside that range.»

GettyImages-168254542New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in 2013, right after getting surgery.Photo: Getty

RTX1DIQZNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in 2015.Photo: Reuters

Perhaps one of the most publicized moments surrounding Christie’s weight came in February 2013, just before he received the minimally invasive Lap-Band surgery, where a band is put around the stomach to restrict space and let the person feel full quicker. On «Late Night Show With David Letterman,» Christie pulled out a donut and began eating it before Letterman was even able to finish a sentence addressing the fact that he had made so many jokes about the governor’s weight on his show.

“I didn’t know this was going to be so long,” Christie joked. He told Letterman that he didn’t mind the jokes about his weight, so long as they were actually funny. He later said that he was “basically, the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen in your life.”

A couple of days later, Christie lashed out at a former White House doctor who expressed concern for his health and whether or not he would die of a heart attack or stroke while in office. Christie told her to “shut up,” and said that she had scared his kids into thinking he was going to die even though she had never medically examined him.

Christie insisted that he was not unhealthy, though he had mentioned to Letterman that his doctors had told him that as he got older, things could change. He checked himself in for surgery 10 days after he told the doctor to shut up on television.

Rumors have circulated that the Christie may have stayed off of the national stage in 2012 — when he was widely urged by Republicans to join the race — because of his weight. Others have theorized that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may have passed on Christie as a vice presidential running mate in part because of Christie’s size.

A doctor in November estimated that Christie may have lost up to 100 pounds since the Lap-Band surgery. The New Jersey governor has kept his poundage under wraps, though, so exactly how much he has lost is unknown.

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie has cut more than the state budget his first year in office: The heavyset head-of-state has also dropped a few notches in his belt.

Exactly how much he’s lost he’s isn’t saying, but his suits have been getting noticeably baggy.

«I’m not going to put any numbers on it because you just set yourself up for failure,» the 48-year-old Republican said.

Christie credits his recent weight loss to working with a trainer three mornings a week — Wednesday, Friday and Saturday — and eating better.

He started working with a trainer in June 2009, but for the past year says he has been more consistent.

«What I’ve done over the last 10 months is I’ve just watched what I eat, work out, and slowly but surely I’m taking the weight off,» he said.

The governor has long struggled with his weight, which he says he started putting on after high school when he stopped playing organized sports.


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He’s tried dozens of diets over the years with varying success.

He lost 40 pounds on a bet in 1997 while he was a county freeholder, but gained it back. From 2002-2003, while serving as New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor, he lost 50 pounds on the Atkins diet but it didn’t stay off.

His weight came up during his 2009 campaign against Democrat incumbent Jon Corzine, who ran an ad accusing Christie of «throwing his weight around» to get out of traffic citations while he was U.S. attorney.

The ads included unflattering images of Christie struggling to exit an SUV. In contrast, Corzine was running 5K and 10K races nearly every weekend toward the end of the campaign.

Christie confronted the ads head on, telling Corzine to «man up and say I’m fat.»

Christie said that more than anything else, the motivation to lose weight is his four children, who range in age from 7 to 17 years old.

«I’m motivated by the fact that the job is pretty stressful at times and I have four kids, so I need to be around for them,» Christie said. «I don’t want to be in a situation where, as I get older, my health is really at risk.»

Christie’s weight has also made him extremely relatable to people, and extremely self-deprecating.

During a radio interview this fall, he likened his weight loss to «throwing a couple deck chairs off of the Titanic.»

At town hall meetings, he often jokes about how he wasn’t elected for his good looks but for his fiscal discipline.

Other politicians have struggled with weight in the spotlight of the governor’s office, with mixed results.

After being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and having an antique chair collapse beneath his weight during a cabinet meeting, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee lost 110 pounds while in office. He went on to run several marathons and wrote about his efforts in his 2005 book, «Stop Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork.»

He’s put some weight back on recently, and blames a foot injury.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has spoken about his failed attempts at using the Atkins diet.

And former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell lost about 60 pounds in the months before he recently left office, mostly by watching his diet and eating out less. So far he’s kept it off and weighs around 200 pounds.

«You just have to cut consumption. Once you eat that first hors-d’oeuvre, you’re cooked,» he said.

Rendell called Christie’s weight a «political plus.»

«Gov. Christie uses his weight to his advantage,» Rendell said. «He talks about it and people relate.»

GOP presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie, has given the leader of New Jersey’s National Guard 90 days to slim down and meet the US military’s fitness requirements.

Christie’s staff said the governor of New Jersey was unaware that Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff has been reprimanded by the Pentagon for repeatedly dodged physical-fitness tests.

Records of Cunniff’s evasions were obtained by the Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The governor has expressed directly to the general that his failure to meet that standard or to provide notification of his formal reprimand is both unacceptable and disappointing,” Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said in an email statement.

Cunniff flunked his last fitness test in November 2013, his first in three years, when his waist size was measured at 43.5 inches, 4.5 inches larger than regulation. However, it is not clear how much weight Cunniff must lose in 90 days in order to “meet his obligations,” as Christie has requested.

“Many people struggle with weight control – I am not immune from this,” the general said in a statement. “However, I do recognize that military members and leaders, like myself, are held to a higher standard. I take this matter seriously and am taking the necessary steps to remedy this issue.”

Nearly half of US states had adult obesity rates above 30 percent in 2014, according to the latest data collected by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority of the states with top obesity rates are in the South or Midwest. New Jersey is among 23 states with an obesity rate between 25-30 percent. 

Although Christie proclaims himself “the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen,” he secretly underwent weight-control surgery in 2013. Since a band was surgically placed around his stomach, constricting his food intake, the 5’11’’ governor has shed almost 100 pounds.

And just because Christie hasn’t publicly commented on his weight in regards to his presidential run, it may affect some voters’ perception of the governor. Experts suggest that voters often judge a leader on his or her looks in the current visual-age, regardless of political views. 

“We don’t want leaders that don’t control their body,” image consultant Sylvie di Giusto explained to the International Business Times, “because if they don’t control their body, how can they possibly control an entire country?”


Lap band, or gastric banding, surgery is a procedure in which a silicone tube is wrapped around the upper part of the stomach, making it smaller and limiting the amount of food the stomach can hold.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the procedure in 2001 for severely obese adults with a body mass index of 40 or more. The FDA widened that approval in 2011 to include less obese adults.

A 6-foot (1.8 meter) tall, 300 pound (136 kg) man would have a body mass index of above 40.

Demand for the surgery has dropped since it was introduced, in part because many U.S. health insurance plans do not cover the procedure.

Singer Carnie Wilson, actor Brian Dennehy and New York Jets coach Rex Ryan all reportedly underwent lap band surgery.

Wilson had the procedure in January 2012, more than a decade after she underwent gastric bypass surgery, another weight-loss procedure that some studies have suggested in recent years may be safer and more effective than lap band surgery.

Christie is not the first prominent U.S. politician to struggle with weight. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee lost more than 100 pounds (45 kg) between 2003 and 2006, and later ran an unsuccessful campaign for president in 2008.

Bill Clinton also took heat at times during his years in office for his affinity for fast food.

In February 2011, Christie told the conservative American Enterprise Institute that he was not “ready” to run for president. In January this year he told ABC News he would be “more ready” for the 2016 contest.

Christie, who gained a higher national profile for his handling of Superstorm Sandy’s hit to his home state last autumn, is up for re-election in New Jersey this November.

Former White House physician Connie Mariano in February told CNN that Christie was at a risk of having a heart attack or stroke if he did not slim down.

“It’s almost like a time bomb waiting to happen unless he addresses those issues before running for office,” Mariano said.

Christie shot back angrily, noting that Mariano had never examined him or reviewed his medical records and calling her “just another hack who wants five minutes on TV.”

The governor has also attempted to deflect concerns about his weight with humor. In an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman early this year, he pulled out a donut mid-joke.

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