NEWARK, N.J. —
"It basically teaches you how to eat like a human," Ryan said of the device in an interview last week with The Associated Press. "The Lap-Band goes: 'No, no. You're only going to eat this or that,' and it trains your body how to eat right," said Ryan, who said he has lost 115 pounds from his pre-surgery weight of 348.
Few significantly overweight presidential candidates have succeeded in the modern political era, when television became a major factor in shaping voter attitudes. There are disputed reports that President William Howard Taft couldn't fit in a White House bathtub a century ago, but only a handful of presidents since have been considered obese. President Bill Clinton struggled at times with his weight, but he was substantially slimmer than the New Jersey governor.
"This has nothing to do with politics," said Christie adviser Bill Palatucci. "He said that he's doing this for his family and that's the right reason."
Backers publicly argue that Christie answered any questions about his weight's political impact in 2009, when he beat Gov. Jon Corzine despite the Democrat's reference in an ad to Christie "throwing his weight around" to get out of traffic tickets. Supporters say Christie's openness about his struggle is part of an authenticity people admire in him.
The governor's allies, medical professionals and even history suggest that his weight presents both practical and political problems.
"Gov. Christie's weight is an issue the same way that any candidate or official's health is an issue," said Michael Dennehy, a New Hampshire-based Republican strategist and veteran of presidential politics. "Anyone running for president will need to comfort Americans with an overall healthy picture for their future."