Governor Christie: I Relate
By Ken Walker-
When I saw New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on NBC News recently talking about his weight struggles at 50, I could relate. I will never forget my 50th birthday, and not just because my wife threw me a surprise birthday party.
With dozens of guests, I got a lot of gifts that year. As I sat and opened them, I didn’t feel like I just had a roll on my belly. I felt like I had a roll on top of my roll.
Just like Christie said that dieting had been part of his life for 30 years, I had been on a yo-yo for that long while steadily drifting upward. At one point, I had said, “Well, I’ll never get over 200 pounds.” That night, I thought, “It sure would be nice to get down to 200 pounds.”
Defeated By Diet
It is amazing how otherwise intelligent, rational people—which I considered myself to be—can be suckers for the Standard American Diet. You know: the meat-and-potatoes, bread-and-butter, ice cream-cake-and-pie-laden, calorie-rich, filled-with-fat diet.
For the next year I mainly fretted about my inability to lose weight. Finally, in desperation when I saw an ad for a weight loss study at a research center in Louisville, Kentucky, I called.
I went in, filled out the paperwork and started on a seven-month journey that led to a loss of more than 23 pounds. Not knowing if I was part of the control group or had received a new diet pill they were trying out, I can’t say if eating less helped. But it didn’t hurt my efforts to regain control of my waistline.
Everything went fine for the next couple years, until a disastrous holiday season. It started with an out-of-town speaking engagement, followed by two family visits before and during Thanksgiving.
It didn’t go much better at Christmas. By early January I had put on close to eight pounds over five weeks. Three weeks later our daughter dropped dead one Friday night of a heart attack. All semblance of discipline went out the window.
By the time I showed up at my first Weight Watchers meeting that April, I had regained 19 of the 23 pounds I shed in that weight loss study. Regaining that much weight and feeling like a tub again didn’t do much for my mood.
Too Little Too Late
Although following a more sensible eating plan helped me lose some pounds, it proved to be a case of too little too late. In July I went to the doctor after getting so winded cutting our lawn a 25-minute job turned into a 90-minute routine because I needed rest breaks.
He sent me for a stress test. That morning, the cardiologist quickly shut down the treadmill and ordered me to the cath lab, where they found blockages of 60 and 98 percent in a heart artery.
The following year can only be described as misery. And though I continued with Weight Watchers, I never could keep the weight off. I got back down under 200 again, only to drift back up.
By January of 2008, after again experiencing mysterious, unreasonable fatigue, I was back in the cath lab. My cardiologist found another blockage in the same artery and said because of its location, my best option was bypass surgery.
If I could urge Chris Christie anything, it would be: Stop! Stop what you’re eating and change to a low or no-meat, vegetable-and-fruit heavy, fresh food diet. You don’t ever want to be cut open. That is pain that you never want to experience.
Fortunately, a door opened to enroll in a lifestyle program at the hospital where I had my surgery. They taught my eight classmates and I how to enjoy a vegetarian, low-fat, low-sugar lifestyle. It helped that my wife ate the same way during an intense routine during the first 12 weeks.
I dropped 20 pounds during those three months and am a few pounds lighter today. Not bad, since a doctor whose new book I edited says most people can’t sustain significant weight loss for five years.
To say that I don’t struggle today would be a lie. Pizza didn’t stop tasting good and I still love ice cream. But I know I would not likely be alive today, and not feel nearly as good as I do, had I not changed the way I eat.
For the sake of Governor Christie’s life, I hope those who advise him, or his family, will convince him to do the same.