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Connie Mariano, Former White House Doctor: I'm 'Worried' About Chris Christie 'Dying In Office'

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CONNIE MARIANO CHRIS CHRISTIE
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Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) may not be shy about addressing his weight head on -- occasionally injecting levity into discussions about his size -- but a former White House doctor says it's not really a laughing matter.

"I'm worried about this man dying in office," Connie Mariano, M.D., a physician to former President Bill Clinton, told CNN in an interview. "I'm worried he may have a heart attack. I'm worried he may have a stroke."

Christie has faced frequent scrutiny and ridicule for his fitness struggles since stepping onto the national stage in 2009. He admitted he was "pretty fat" during his successful campaign for governor, challenging his Democratic challenger not to beat around the bush in criticizing his weight.

His size has also been a favorite target for late night comedians, and Christie has gotten in on the mockery. On Monday night, the governor told "Late Show" host Dave Letterman -- who has made a habit of zinging Christie with fat jokes -- that he was "basically the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen in your life." While he made fun of himself, pulling a jelly donut out of his pocket and taking a bite, Christie also told Letterman that he was concerned because his doctor had warned him that his "luck is going to run out relatively soon."

Mariano -- a self-described Republican -- told CNN that she agrees with Christie's physician. She wants Christie to run for president, but only after losing weight.

While Christie has been quick to concede that he's far from svelte and that it's been difficult for him to lose weight, he's also been somewhat sensitive about suggestions that his size would disqualify him from running for higher office.

Last year, ABC News' Barbara Walters asked Christie, who is frequently mentioned in early rounds of 2016 presidential speculation, if he was "too heavy" to serve in the White House. The governor shot back, calling the question "ridiculous" because he'd already proven himself effective on the job in New Jersey.

And Christie has repeatedly declared that none of this is to say that he isn't trying to slim down. In 2011, he claimed that he'd been losing weight, which immediately sparked speculation that he was hoping to shed some pounds ahead of a presidential run. After little reported progress since, however, Christie assured constituents and reporters on Tuesday that he had a "plan" to address his weight problem, perhaps suggesting that he is preparing to take the health issue more seriously.

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Former WH doc on Christie: 'I'm worried about this man dying in office'