Chris Christie says he’s “the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen in your life.”

By now, most have seen a clip of current GOP Governor of New Jersey, and possible 2016 GOP presidential candidate, Chris Christie’s recent visit on the Letterman Show (if not, you can watch it at the bottom of this post).

After a few moments of talking to Dave, Christie reaches into his pocket, grabs a jelly donut, takes a bite and says: “I didn’t know this was going to be this long.”  Everyone laughs.  More power to the guy that he can publicly joke about his weight problem.

Christie then goes on to tell Letterman: “I’m like basically the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen in your life.”  Though the comment is misleading.  No fat guy is healthy.  Christie might be healthier than most morbidly obese people, that’s possible.  But being the best of the worst does not mean you’re “healthy,” which is what Christie seems to be suggesting.  (One could be the healthiest terminally-ill patient in the hospice, too.)

For anyone who has struggled with their weight – myself included – it can be a sensitive subject. After growing up being a skinny kid (I was 6′ and 135 pounds when I graduated from high school), I plowed on the weight in the working world. Desk jobs, stress, long hours and travel for work didn’t help, nor did a lack of exercise. I also like to cook and eat, which doesn’t make it any easier.

Christ Christie on Letterman

Christ Christie on Letterman, making a joke about his obesity by eating a donut.

For me I had my own wakeup call when my close friend and former roommate died at his desk first thing in the morning. Niko was doing his daily call with work when he suffered a massive heart attack, leaving behind a wife and two kids under 5 years old. He was only 42 years old and by the time the ambulance was there in 15 minutes it was all over. Niko had a build very much like Chris Christie, though perhaps a bit smaller.

The entire event scared the hell out of me, and made me start thinking more about my own weight problem and my overall state of health. Thanks to my friend Hank (he’s now 73 years old), I started cycling on a regular basis, and I feel a million times better, though I still have work to do. Nobody has to tell Christie that he needs to address his weight issue, and I have no doubt he already feels uncomfortable about the problem, as do most of us who struggle with weight.

For all of Christie’s public fury aimed at the Republican doctor who recently said he needed to lose weight, Christie is the one who is wrong on all counts. From ABC:

Dr. Connie Mariano, who was President Clinton’s doctor in the White House, went on CNN and said, “I’m worried about this man dying in office” after Christie confronted his own weight issue head-on at a press conference Tuesday.

“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 2400 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, who has not ruled out a 2016 presidential bid, also said his children watched the CNN segment, and his 12-year-old son asked him, “Dad, are you going to die?”

NOTE FROM (JOHN: If my father were as obese as Chris Christie, I’d be worried about him dying as well. It’s Christie’s fault, not the doctor’s, or CNN’s, that his children are afraid he’s going to die.  Because he just may.)

Being that overweight is not healthy, despite Christie’s claims. If he’d like to see an independent doctor and publicize the full results of the test, is there any doubt what the doctor would say? As much as Christie doesn’t want to hear about it, being as overweight as he is is not good for your health.

Let me walk you through just how obese Chris Christie is.  From Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post:

The NIH estimates that nearly 34 percent of U.S. adults can be classified as “obese,” meaning they have a body mass index of more than 30. By this standard, a man who stands 5-foot-11 — Christie’s reported height — would be obese if his weight reached 215 pounds.

Robinson estimates that Christie’s weight is more than 286 pounds, because apparently Christie won’t say what he weighs.

While Christie does not disclose his weight, it appears to exceed the 286 pounds that would place him among the 5.7 percent of American adults whom NIH classifies as “extremely obese.”

Some estimates put his weight even higher.  (You can calculate your BMI here.)  At 286 pounds, Christie’s BMI would be around 40.  But people think he weighs more than 286. In any case, according to WebMD:

A person with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered to be at a healthy weight. A person with a BMI of 25-29.9 is considered to be overweight. A BMI over 30 is considered obese. A BMI of 40 or above indicates that a person is morbidly obese. This can increases a person’s risk of death from any cause by 50% to 150%.

Christie wants to criticize the GOP doctor (who was Bill Clinton’s doctor, by the way) for her “remote diagnosis,” but he somehow ignores his own responsibility in this process. He’s a public figure, so above and beyond his own family, does he honestly think that he’s setting a good example by claiming that morbid obesity does not pose grave risks to your health? The guy has enough money to be able to afford proper healthcare and exercise and diet, but so far, he’s been unable to address the problem. It’s tough, I know it’s tough — but so is dying early, especially if you die while you’re President of the United States.

Even worse, he’s now lashing out and showing his worst possible personality trait, one that people already dislike. Salon makes a great point about this problem. His weight is an issue, but his temperament is a bigger problem.

“If he can overcome this disease, he deserves the White House,” she told the Newark Star-Ledger. “He’s a tough SOB. And all of us really like him because he’s refreshingly honest. He’s no BS-er. … I want him to lose weight so he can win the office.”

So how did Christie respond? Did he ask her for some advice, or at least thank her (even if he privately resented her kibbitzing)?

No, he called her a “hack” who knows nothing about his health. ““This is just another hack who wants five minutes on TV,” he fumed, adding “She should shut up.” The tirade went on a minute and a half.

That’s why he’ll never be President Christie, whether he loses or gains 100 pounds. The funny, shoot-from-the-lip Christie is one thing: the angry abusive Christie is quite another. I can understand Christie privately resenting Mariano’s public advice; he said his kids were concerned about it. But national public figures have to get used to much rougher treatment than their kids seeing someone who says she’s a fan expressing concern about his health.

Do voters want to take the risk and vote for a presidential candidate who looks like he could have a heart attack on any given day? It’s going to be a concern in any campaign. I don’t believe for a minute that Christie is healthy.  And while many Americans can sympathize with his situation and understand, voting for him to run the toughest job in the country is another issue. If Christie is this stressed as governor of New Jersey, how would being president impact his stress levels and weight? Look at Obama’s quickly-graying hair, and he’s about as healthy looking as anyone we’ve seen in the White House.

When you’re running for president, looking healthy probably means a lot more than what the doctors say anyway. Politics aside, does anyone honestly think Chris Christie looks healthy? Ultimately, whatever he or doctors from thousands of miles away say, voters will ultimately make that call.

What may complicate the matter even more for Christie is the GOP obsession with extremist running mates such as Cheney, Palin and Ryan. Voters may accept a fault with a candidate, but the weight problem, plus his bad character, plus yet another unqualified extremist running mate, is perhaps more than anyone can handle. How many risks would voters really want to take?

It’s irrelevant for me whether Chris Christie addresses his weight issue or not because I would never vote for him, let alone really care about his success in the future. But for the sake of the guy’s family, he really needs to get serious.  His morbid obesity is not a joking matter.  And while we should have all the understanding in the world for how difficult it can be for some people to control their weight, we should never permit a public figure to suggest that morbid obesity is not a serious health risk.

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An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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