NEWARK, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie, who once famously called himself "the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen," disclosed Tuesday he had secretly undergone weight-loss surgery, a major new step by the potential Republican presidential contender to address both his health and a political vulnerability.
The stakes are high for Christie, with medical professionals and campaign strategists alike suggesting there is no more serious barrier to his personal well-being and national ambitions than his weight.
It's not about politics, he said. It's about turning 50 and wanting to be around as his children grow up.
"This is a hell of a lot more important to me than running for president," Christie, a father of four, said at a news conference in Newark. "This is about my family's future."
Christie, who appeared thinner than he did earlier this year, said he decided around the time of his birthday in September to have the surgery and initially planned to have it done in November. But Superstorm Sandy's destruction in New Jersey pushed back the procedure until February. In the operation, a band was surgically placed around his stomach to restrict how much food he could eat.
Christie has not previously disclosed his weight, and he didn't on Tuesday. But it has been an issue throughout his political career. Comedians have often made fun of it, and in interviews with David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters and others, Christie has both joked about the issue and said solemnly that he was trying to shed pounds.
During a February appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman," the governor pulled out a doughnut and said his girth was "fair game" for comedians.
Over the next few days, he was asked repeatedly about his weight. At one point, he said he had a plan. "Whether it's successful or not," he said, "you'll all be able to notice."