updated 05/30/2013 AT 9:00 AM ET
•originally published 06/02/2013 AT 2:30 PM ET
The morning after hosting 120 friends for their daughter Sarah’s junior prom pre-party in their stately Mendham, N.J., home, Chris Christie and wife Mary Pat are up at dawn.
She braces for a weekend of kids’ sporting events (baseball, lacrosse, golf) by reaching for a glass of homemade beet-kale-pineapple juice, while the New Jersey governor fills a large coffee mug with cold, white milk.
Since having lap-band surgery in February, he says, “I don’t have the urge to eat breakfast anymore.” But the milk isn’t a new post-procedure habit; he’s always started the day like this.
“Not a coffee or Diet Coke guy, even in law school,” he says with a shrug. “I’ve never needed caffeine.”
Not now, and not seven months ago, when Superstorm Sandy ravaged the state and tested Governor Christie’s leadership and endurance.
“He was working 18-hour days,” says Mrs. Christie, sitting for a joint interview with PEOPLE in their cozy family room. In the early days, “I couldn’t get my head around how much damage there was,” the governor says. “I walked along the beach from Mantoloking to Bay Head and saw one house after another gone. I knew we were in for a long haul.”