Celebrating WW’s Founder, Jean Nidetch

How one woman created a brand and became an icon.
Published February 28, 2022

In recognition of Women’s History Month, we wanted to spotlight WW founder Jean Nidetch.

Nidetch, who died in 2015, left behind an inspiring legacy in WW, originally known as Weight Watchers.

She based the weight loss meeting concept on her get-togethers with friends who wanted to lose weight in her living room in Queens, N.Y. This inclusive, supportive approach to weight loss became Weight Watchers when she officially founded the company in 1963. Five years later, she took the company public, and today, WW is the most clinically studied commercial provider of weight management services operating across the world via a network of both company-owned and franchise establishments.

Nidetch went from housewife to global healthy living icon, inspiring millions to reach their weight loss goals. She had personally struggled with her weight throughout her early life and had tried all sorts of fad diets that never worked. Two years before founding the company, Nidetch had vowed to reclaim her health. She embarked on her own weight loss journey via a regimen sponsored by the New York Board of Health and began gathering friends who also wanted to lose weight to support one another along the way. About two months later, there were 40 women meeting weekly to track their progress and keep one another accountable. Nidetch herself lost 72 pounds through the process, and her innovative method of group support was considered an overwhelming success. The rest, as they say, is history.

Throughout her career, Nidetch advocated for the advancement of women in both business and politics, establishing the Jean Nidetch Women’s Center and Scholarship program at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas and the Jean Nidetch Dissertation Award at the University of California at Los Angeles.

She herself was also the recipient of a number of awards and accolades throughout her life, including:

  • Being named one of the 100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century by Ladies’ Home Journal (1988)
  • Being nominated to join the Horatio Alger Association (1989)
  • Being named one of the Who’s Who of 20th Century Women (1995)
  • Being included in the 1,000 Years, 1,000 People: Ranking Men and Women Who Shaped the Millennium (1998)
  • Having a day marked in her honour – Then-mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg proclaimed March 25, 2013 Weight Watchers Founder Celebration Day when the company celebrated its 50th anniversary.

This month and every month, we honour her legacy as a female entrepreneur, and hope her story inspires you. Happy Women’s History Month!