By now it is generally known that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie secretly underwent Gastric Banding Surgery (not to be confused with the similar Gastric Bypass Surgery) in February. He has announced it, and answered press questions concerning it. It appears that his concerns about his weight were driven by concerns about his long-term health and its impact on his family, and also about that problem that all who struggle with weight recognize, keeping clothes in his closet that fit.
These drastic gastric surgeries have value, but they are not weight loss panaceas. Banding in particular works by restricting the size of the stomach so as to reduce the volume of food required to trigger the sense that you are “full”. For some people, that sense is dysfunctional, not triggering sometimes at all, sometimes soon enough; and some people eat fast enough to overeat before they have realized they are no longer hungry. Stomachs are designed to stretch to accommodate the normal eating habits of the patient, and although the bands tend to contain this, there are still directions in which stretching can occur. In the end, such surgeries are an aid to learning to eat less, and not everyone learns that lesson.
Despite the announcements, some will speculate that the goal of losing weight is political. We have had some hugely overweight Presidents in the past, but in modern times the appearance that someone is heavy triggers a fear that they are unhealthy. The moderate Christie has a good reputation as a viable candidate against the democrats, and even if he expresses no aspirations toward the presidency he is likely to be perceived as a solid vice presidential candidate particularly if the party offers a southern or western conservative at the head of the ticket. Being thinner would make him more viable for this.
On the positive side, though, it demonstrates that he is willing to take serious but reasonable steps to solve his own personal problems, a characteristic already displayed in his approach to the problems of governing New Jersey. If he can follow through with the dietary recommendations and reach a more comfortable weight, that will speak well of his character as well as improving his health.
The question then is whether it worked; and that’s the wrong question, because these treatments take time. What we need to ask is whether it is working. The slideshow to the left presents images of Governor Christie dating from before the surgery to earlier this week, and although we are not looking at the incredible before-and-after shots of so many fad diet claims, it might be thought that he is thinner now than he was a few months back. I leave it to the viewer to consider that.