Skip to main content

Gov. Christie, I was you -- listen to the docs

By Bryan Monroe, CNN
February 8, 2013 -- Updated 1446 GMT (2246 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gov. Chris Christie says a doctor who commented on his weight should "shut up"
  • Bryan Monroe says the governor should not dismiss her advice so quickly
  • Monroe says he was morbidly obese until he experienced a health crisis
  • He says decisive action led him to lose 170 pounds, which improved his health

Editor's note: Bryan Monroe is editor of CNNPolitics.com

(CNN) -- Gov. Chris Christie, we watched as you lashed out at former White House physician Dr. Connie Mariano this week for calling you out about your weight during a recent CNN report.

It's none of her business, you proclaimed. She's just a "hack," you offered. She needs to just "shut up," you said.

Governor, you might not want to dismiss her so quickly. Yes, she has never examined you and maybe it's not her job to be pointing out the obvious: that morbidly obese men have a significantly higher chance of dying early than the population at large. But, still, she was probably doing you a favor.

How do I know? Seven years ago, governor, I was you.

Bryan Monroe
Bryan Monroe

Sure, I wasn't the popular chief executive of a major state and a leading Republican possibility for president. But, back then, I was busy, with a pretty full life in my own right.

In 2006, I was a corporate executive of a major media company. I had just helped lead the team in Biloxi, Mississippi, covering Hurricane Katrina, an effort that led to The Sun Herald winning the Pulitzer Prize for public service. I was the president of the National Association of Black Journalists, the largest journalism organization of people of color in America.

And, at 6 feet 4 inches tall and 441 pounds, I was morbidly obese.

I'm not going to get into your specific health situation -- you said your numbers are "great" and you were the "healthiest fat guy you've ever seen in your life" -- and no lay person can speak confidently about the state of another person's health.

Bryan Monroe in Biloxi, Miss. during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Bryan Monroe in Biloxi, Miss. during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

All I can say is that I and thousands of other morbidly obese men in their 30s and 40s have uttered exactly the same words. Almost verbatim. We feel great. We have plenty of energy. Low cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure. Blah, blah, blah.

Then, I ended up in intensive care, on the edge of a coma.

Nearly a decade ago, after having received a pretty decent physical a few months earlier, I was in Washington for a conference. One morning, I was unusually thirsty, lethargic and tired, and ended up being rushed to the emergency room at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington.

Ketoacidosis, the doctors said. Significantly elevated blood sugar levels, too much for the body to process. Not good. Bryan, they told me, you were in serious trouble.

Does being overweight determine health?
Doctor responds to Christie's 'shut up'
Christie answers fat critics

And that got my attention.

Governor, like you, I have kids whom I cherish -- they were 5 and 4 at the time. They are my life. But the doctors told me if I kept going down the path I was headed, I would likely not be around to watch them graduate from high school. I certainly did not like hearing that -- thought they were being rude and overly blunt -- but I knew the doctors were right.

Opinion: What you thought you knew about obesity is wrong

So, in 2006, I made a pretty major decision to have gastric bypass surgery. And I believe it saved my life.

Since then, I have lost more than 170 pounds. Now, I'm not Barack Obama-skinny -- I still need to drop another 30 or 40 more to hit my goal -- but I am much happier and healthier. And I can now hang with my 11-year-old son on the basketball court.

My decision, like yours, was deeply personal. But I'm also a reporter. I did my research. I knew that obesity was the single biggest health risk in this country, and that more than one of every three Americans are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For African Americans, obesity is the largest contributor to deadly complications -- hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, amputation, blindness -- that our community has ever known.

I knew that the most morbidly obese men who were successful enough to lose 100 pounds or more tended to gain all of it back -- plus another 20% more -- within five years. It wasn't that they were lazy or bad or undisciplined. It was just plain, biological facts. So, at seven years out, I feel lucky.

Now, I am not about to proselytize about such a dramatic move. While techniques have improved considerably in the past 20 years, the bariatric option is still a major procedure in which as many as two out of every 100 patients die on the operating table or soon after the surgery. It's still a big deal.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



If I could have been successful with more traditional means, I would have been happy. I had tried everything -- the South Beach diet, the all-juice diet -- and spent more money on gyms, trainers and treadmills than my accountant would approve. But, after a lifetime of fooling myself about this plan or that diet -- I could easily lose 30-40 pounds at a time, only to have it creep back -- I had to make a tough choice.

At the end of the day, each obese person needs to choose his or her own path to get down to a more reasonable and healthier weight. But the alternative, doing nothing, is a recipe for disaster. (How many morbidly obese people in their 80s have you seen lately?)

For me, it wasn't a cosmetic or vanity thing. It was a choice I made so I'd be around to walk my daughter down the aisle or see my son win the Heisman trophy.

Gov. Christie, you talked about being angry that your kids were watching TV when the doctor said she was concerned you'd die in office.

Let me tell you something: It's much better that they hear that and then have you around to explain it to them than have to experience the scary alternative.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bryan Monroe.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2108 GMT (0508 HKT)
The NFL's new Player Conduct Policy was a missed chance to get serious about domestic violence, says Mel Robbins.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the CBO didn't provide an accurate picture of Obamacare's impact, so why rehire its boss?
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 0040 GMT (0840 HKT)
Russian aggression has made it clear Ukraine must rethink its security plans, says Olexander Motsyk, Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 0046 GMT (0846 HKT)
The Senate committee report on torture has highlighted partisan divisions on CIA methods, says Will Marshall. Republicans and Democrats are to blame.
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1833 GMT (0233 HKT)
It would be dishonest to say that 2014 has been a good year for women. But that hasn't stopped some standing out, says Frida Ghitis.
ADVERTISEMENT