- Associated Press - Sunday, February 20, 2011

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has cut more than the state budget his first year in office: The heavyset head of state also has dropped a few notches in his belt.

Exactly how much weight he’s lost he isn’t saying, but his suits have been getting noticeably baggy.

“I’m not going to put any numbers on it because you just set yourself up for failure,” the 48-year-old Mr. Christie, a Republican, said.

Mr. Christie credits his recent weight loss to working with a trainer three mornings a week — Wednesday, Friday and Saturday — and eating better.

He started working with a trainer in June 2009, but for the past year, he said, he has been more consistent.

“What I’ve done over the last 10 months is I’ve just watched what I eat, work out, and slowly but surely I’m taking the weight off,” he said.

The governor long has struggled with his weight, which he says he started putting on after high school when he stopped playing organized sports.

He’s tried dozens of diets over the years with varying success.

He lost 40 pounds on a bet in 1997 while he was a county freeholder but gained it back. In 2002-03, while serving as New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor, he lost 50 pounds on the Atkins diet, but it didn’t stay off.

His weight came up during his 2009 campaign against Democrat incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine, who ran an ad accusing Mr. Christie of “throwing his weight around” to get out of traffic citations while he was U.S. attorney.

The ads included unflattering images of Mr. Christie struggling to exit an SUV. In contrast, Mr. Corzine was running 5K and 10K races nearly every weekend toward the end of the campaign.

Mr. Christie confronted the ads head on, telling Mr. Corzine to “man up and say I’m fat.”

Mr. Christie said that more than anything else, the motivation to lose weight is his four children, who range in age from 7 to 17 years old.

“I’m motivated by the fact that the job is pretty stressful at times and I have four kids, so I need to be around for them,” Mr. Christie said. “I don’t want to be in a situation where, as I get older, my health is really at risk.”

Mr. Christie’s weight also has made him extremely relatable to people and extremely self-deprecating.

During a radio interview this fall, he likened his weight loss to “throwing a couple deck chairs off of the Titanic.”

At town-hall meetings, he often jokes about how he wasn’t elected for his good looks but for his fiscal discipline.

Other politicians have struggled with weight in the spotlight of the governor’s office, with mixed results.

After being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and having an antique chair collapse beneath his weight during a Cabinet meeting, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee lost 110 pounds while in office. He went on to run several marathons and wrote about his efforts in his 2005 book, “Stop Digging Your Grave With a Knife and Fork.”

He’s put some weight back on recently and blames a foot injury.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has spoken about his failed attempts at using the Atkins diet.

And former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell lost about 60 pounds in the months before he recently left office, mostly by watching his diet and eating out less. So far he’s kept it off and weighs around 200 pounds.

“You just have to cut consumption. Once you eat that first hors d’oeuvre, you’re cooked,” he said.

Mr. Rendell called Mr. Christie’s weight a “political plus.”

Gov. Christie uses his weight to his advantage,” Mr. Rendell said. “He talks about it, and people relate.”

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