Founder of Weight Watchers, Jean Nidetch dies at 91

Reshma Trilochun Monday 04th May 2015 15:50 EDT

The founder of Weight Watchers, Jean Nidetch has died at the age of 91. She once weighed 15 stones and was a housewife from New York, until she decided to turn her weight issue into a multimillion business via Weight Watchers.

She was born as Jean Evelyn Slutsky in Brooklyn in 1923. Jean Nidetch had formerly referred to herself as a Formerly Fat Housewife (FFH). In 1961, she had become more than 15 stone and her waist was 44 inches. She had avoided full length mirrors and was unaware of how fat she had become. It was not until her neighbour mistook her for being pregnant that she thought something had to be done about her weight.

Nidetch decided to join a diet programme run by the New York City Board of Health in Manhattan. She had found the programme to be useful and had managed to follow up to the plan; however, she was unable to curb her cravings. It is then when she decided to call over six “fat friends” to her apartment. She thought it would be a better idea to share her woes with those who were experiencing the same issues as she was. After a few months, 40 people had queued up outside her door to join her group she called Jean’s Fats’ Club.

By October 1962, Jean Nidetch had reached her target of losing 72lbs. At 5 foot 7 inches tall, she weighed a remarkable 10 stones. The following year, she joined hands with businessman, Al Lippert, who suggested that they go into business together. They transformed Jean’s Fats’ Club to Weight Watchers International.

The business had reached new heights and within four years, Weight Watchers had generated more than 200 branches around the world, licensed to 100 franchisees who paid a modest fee for the right to represent the brand, yet transmitted 10% of annual gross profits to the founders.

Weight Watchers was already a household name to reckon with and had global reach in 1978, when Neditch decided to sell the enterprise to the Heinz Organisation, for $71 million.

Jean Neditch passed away of natural causes on 29th April 2015.

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