Weight Watchers founder Jean Nidetch has died at her Florida home at the age of 91.
Jean Nidetch turned worrying about one’s weight into a million-dollar industry.
Using calorie counting, meetings and sharing stories, Jean Nidetch 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 dieting company in the early 1960s.
Within two years she had became 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.
When Jean 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 Jean Nidetch would summarize the regime simply in four words: “Drop the damn fork!”
The new diet worked but she 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, Jean 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.
Jean Nidetch became the face of the company, travelling the world to talk about the company’s calorie-counting principles.
In 1978, the company was sold to Heinz for $71 million and Jean Nidetch retired to south Florida.
Jean Nidetch says she kept her lifelong vow never to surpass 150lbs.