The cause of Gov. Paul LePage’s dramatic weight loss in recent months was revealed Wednesday when the slimmed-down governor told a talk radio host he underwent bariatric surgery in September after his doctor warned him he risked developing diabetes if he didn’t lose weight.
Speaking on Portland-based WLOB, LePage, 68, said he was treated as an outpatient and returned to work the next day, according to a report in the Sun Journal in Lewiston. Certain bariatric procedures can be done on an outpatient basis, according to the National Institute of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine.
LePage’s staff members had declined comment on the governor’s weight loss, one telling a reporter it was “none of your business.” But LePage said Wednesday that he has lost at least 50 pounds and is feeling well.
“We do not comment on the governor’s personal medical care,” LePage’s communications director, Peter Steele, wrote in an email to the Portland Press Herald. “If he chooses to talk about it publicly, that is his decision.”
At least one other governor has acknowledged having a weight-loss procedure in recent years. In 2015, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a political ally of LePage, acknowledged he had a bariatric surgery two years earlier and, like LePage, he said it was a good decision.
Steele declined to say whether LePage paid for the surgery himself or whether it was covered by LePage’s state health insurance plan. A request to speak to LePage about his weight loss also was rejected by Steele.
The health of LePage’s predecessor, Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, was also occasionally questioned by the media and the public.
David Farmer, a deputy chief of staff for Baldacci, said the former governor’s thin appearance combined with a “bad haircut” given by his son Jack prompted reporters to question whether Baldacci was battling cancer.
“We got asked about it a lot, but there was nothing to it. But there was never something quite so obvious as Gov. LePage’s weight loss,” Farmer said.
He said the health of any governor is certainly a matter of public interest and speculation.
The state’s Constitution says the governor may notify the chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court if he or she is physically or mentally incapacitated so the Senate president can execute the governor’s powers in the event of a statewide emergency. Farmer suggested that if LePage was placed under anesthesia for a medical procedure, that would constitute being physically and mentally incapacitated.
Bariatric surgeries cause weight loss by restricting the amount of food the stomach can hold or reducing the absorption of nutrients, or both. Some carry higher risks and require significant hospital stays, although most weight loss surgeries use minimally invasive techniques known as laparoscopic surgery.