Founder of Weight Watchers, Dies!
The founder of international dieting company Weight Watchers, Jean Nidetch, has died at home in Florida, aged 91.
Nidetch turned worrying about one’s weight into a million-dollar industry.
Using calorie counting, meetings and sharing stories, she encouraged her members to be responsible, take exercise and eat lots of fish.
As a child, Jean Nidetch had been overweight and she described herself as a fat housewife when she founded the company in the early 1960s.
Within two years she had become a millionaire and today, more than 30,000 weight watchers meetings take place across the world.
Jean Evelyn Slutsky was born in Brooklyn in 1923, weighing 7lbs 3oz.
But she piled on the pounds as a child, and was dieting without success before she even reached high school.
When she attended an obesity clinic sponsored by the New York City Board of Health in 1961, she was 5ft 7in and 214lbs
But the advice she received there gave new impetus to her attempts at weight loss.
The tips included no skipping meals, more fruit and vegetables, fish five times a week, and two pieces of bread and two glasses of skimmed milk a day.
Later she would summarise the regime simply in four words: “Drop the damn fork!”
The new diet worked but Nidetch was unhappy about the lack of stories exchanged among others who were also dieting at the clinic.
So she set up her own group in the living room of her home in Queens, with six friends who had similar eating compulsions to her.
In October 1962, Nidetch reached her target weight of 142lbs and the following year she and two friends founded Weight Watchers International.
The new business first conquered New York and then the globe. For its 10th birthday, Bob Hope was on stage entertaining 16,000 people in Madison Square Garden.
Nidetch became the face of the company, travelling the world to evangelise about the company’s calorie-counting principles.
In 1978, the company was sold to Heinz for $71m and she retired to south Florida.
She says she kept her lifelong vow never to surpass 150lbs.