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(USA TODAY) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie secretly underwent surgery to lose weight at the urging of his family and friends, he told The New York Post.

TheRepublican, who is running for a second term in November, had lap-bandstomach surgery in February. Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for thegovernor, confirmed the news Tuesday.

"I've struggled with thisissue for 20 years," Christie told the newspaper. "For me this is aboutturning 50 and looking at my children and wanting to be there forthem."

Christie, the father of four children, turned 50 inSeptember. He said he was not motivated by a potential presidential bidin 2016.

STORY: Weight surgery option is for extremely obese

Christiereportedly consulted with the doctor who performed the same surgery in2010 on New York Jets coach Rex Ryan. In gastric banding surgery, a tubeis wrapped around the upper part of the stomach to limit the amount offood it can hold. A person ends up eating less and feels full quicker,according to WebMD. The surgery is sometimes known as the Lap-BandSystem, one of its brand names.

Christie told the newspaper he recently ate only a third of a steak and felt full. He did not disclose his weight loss, but the New York Post quoted sources who said the governor has lost 40 pounds.

"Iknow it sounds crazy to say that running for president is minor, but inthe grand scheme of things, it was looking at Mary Pat and the kids andgoing, 'I have to do this for them, even if I don't give a crap aboutmyself,' " the governor said.

Chrstie's weight has been aperennial topic and provided much fodder for late-night comedians.Christie has been open about his struggles and last year rejected theidea that he was too fat to be president. In an interview with BarbaraWalters, Christie said his performance after Superstorm Sandy - in whichhe worked long days managing the state's recovery - showed he could beeffective despite his weight.

During an appearance on DavidLetterman's show in February, Christie poked fun at himself by eating adoughnut as he talked to the CBS host. But the governor said the nextday he had a plan to lose weight and rejected the idea that he did notcare about his health. He lashed out at Connie Mariano, the White Housedoctor in the Clinton administration, who commented in a TV interviewthat Christie was at risk for a heart attack or stroke.

"Beassured there is a plan - whether it will be successful or not, you willall be able to notice," Christie said after the Letterman showappearance.

About 220,000 people in 2009 had weight-loss surgery,according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.Studies show patients who have this surgery may improve their lifeexpectancy and reduce the risk of premature death, the organization'swebsite says.

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