Chris Christie's Struggle and the Politics of Weight

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Puhl also pointed out that it's important to make the distinction that "health risk comes in different sizes…. There are certainly many people who are overweight by BMI [body mass index], but they maintain a balanced diet and exercise regularly, while many thin people smoke cigarettes, drink too much alcohol, eat poorly, and don't exercise. Being thin is not an automatic indicator of health," Puhl said. "Chris Christie has really been scrutinized, but we need to be careful of singling him out because the health status of his political peers may not be what it seems either."

Being overweight "is a very complex condition," Puhl said. "If this were easy to fix we wouldn't have the epidemic we have right now. Chris Christie has been very honest that his body weight is a struggle, and I think a lot of Americans identify with that."

Dr. Connie Mariano was President Bill Clinton's doctor in the White House, and helped him in his weight loss struggle. She was also the White House physician during President George H.W. Bush's final year in office as well as for a few months of George W. Bush's first term. She says she is a Republican and likes Christie, but sees his weight as a problem blocking him from higher office.

"It's something we worry about at the White House constantly," Mariano said. "He is at risk of a heart attack at that size, he could have sleep apnea, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes. And coming to the White House, which is a pressure cooker and there is more stress involved, long hours, lots of travel which makes those things worse unless they were healthier."

Mariano, who now has a private practice treating executives in Scottsdale, Ariz., said if Christie does want to run for president the issues will "constantly haunt him during the presidency and the rest of his life."

"When you see somebody like that who may have a shortened life span because of their obesity," Mariano said. "We are all compassionate towards him…there is no magic pill."

Mariano said if she were his doctor she would work "closely with an eating disorder expert" who works with "emotional eaters who eat when they are happy, eat when they are stressed," as well as whoever feeds the governor, including staff, family and a trainer to make sure he has a "daily exercise regiment in the gym" and is doing "a lot of walking." "I've always liked him," Mariano said. "I like that he's forthright, feisty, he connects with people ... he's down to earth, humble, he's the American story we love ... he makes fun of himself, but we don't want him to die young."

Mariano said Christie could be the "poster child for all the other people in this country that are obese."

"If he can do it, I can do it too," Mariano said, referring to Americans' reaction if Christie were to lose weight. "You could save a lot of lives that way."

Mariano also went on CNN and said she was "worried about this man dying in office" and in another press conference Wednesday, Christie actually lashed out at her, calling her a "hack."

"I find it fascinating that a doctor in Arizona who has never met me, never examined me, never reviewed my medical history or records, knows nothing about my family history, could make a diagnosis from 2,400 miles away," the traditionally tough talking governor said. "She must be a genius. She should probably be the surgeon general of the United States, I suspect, because she must be a genius."

Christie said his children actually watched the CNN segment and his 12-year-old son asked him, "Dad, are you going to die?"

Mariano responded to Christie's comments, calling them unfortunate.

"It doesn't take a physician to look at him and observe he is overweight," Mariano said in a statement. "It is sad that he can not take my advice about his weight and risk factors for people who are overweight/obese for diabetes, heart disease, stroke constructively and instead, he chose to attack me personally."

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