Weight Watchers founder Jean Nidetch dead at 91

Jean Nidetch, founder of Weight Watchers, has died at 91. (AP)

Jean Nidetch, founder of Weight Watchers, has died at 91.



Nidetch was a New York housewife who turned her struggle with obesity into a global weight loss company. Standing at 5' 7", she once tipped the scale at 214 pounds. She decided to make a change.

After several failed attempts to lose weight, Nidetch picked up successful dieting tips that seemed to work, and organized meetings where overweight persons could share their struggles. Nidetch eventually reached her weight goal of 142 pounds, and after seeing the growing success and popularity of her meetings, she founded Weight Watchers International in 1963.

Nidetch's Weight Watchers soon became a phenomenon. Franchises were opened across the country, and the company released a cookbook that sold millions by 1968. Nidetch became a household name, appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Her weight loss program garnered her so much fame that, in 1973, 16,000 people lined up to get her autograph in Madison Square Garden.

Nidetch eventually sold Weight Watchers to the H.J. Heinz Co. for about $71 million in 1978, but was still the organization's most familiar face years afterwards.

Nidetch passed away in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She is survived by her son.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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