Jean Nidetch, the woman who founded Weight Watchers, died Wednesday at her Florida home. She was 91.

Jean Nidetch Dies

The inspiration for Weight Watchers struck Nidetch back in 1961 while she was struggling with her own weight issues as a housewife living in Queens, N.Y. At 5′ 7” and tipping the scales at 214 lbs, Nidetch was looking for a longterm solution to keep the weight off, having struggled with her weight since childhood and finding no fad diet useful.

After attending an obesity clinic run by the New York City Board of Health, Nidetch learned some techniques for healthy living that she decided to share with some of her overweight friends. Together, the women were able to hold each other and themselves accountable for shedding the weight and not gaining it back. They kept journals and had weigh-ins to make sure they stayed the course.
In 1963, a year after reaching her goal weight of 142 lbs, Nidetch and two of her friends founded Weight Watchers International and took the company public in 1968. Before long, Weight Watchers was a weight-loss brand known around the country with Nidetch serving as the face and publishing what would be the first of several cookbooks in 1966.

“We ourselves hold the instrument that makes us fat,” Nidetch said 2011 interview with Florida’s Sun Sentinel. “I just shake my head when I see someone eating cake and saying, ‘Oh, I wish I wasn’t heavy.’ But they keep eating the cake!”

Nidetch sold Weight Watchers International to Heinz in 1978 for $71 million but continued to be an active part of the company for a number of years afterwards. She retired to Florida in 2006.

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