NEW YORK (April 29, 2015) – Jean Nidetch, founder of Weight Watchers International, Inc., cultural icon and innovator who inspired millions around the world to live a healthier lifestyle and achieve weight loss success, died today at her home in Florida. Nidetch was 91 years old and is survived by her son, David Nidetch and three grandchildren.

Nidetch created the innovative meeting concept based on popular gatherings of friends who wanted to lose weight in her Queens, N.Y. living room. She founded Weight Watchers in 1963 and today the program is the most clinically studied commercial provider of weight management services operating globally through a network of Company-owned and franchise operations.

Nidetch’s philosophy, “It’s choice – not chance – that determines your destiny,” became the Weight Watchers credo, inspiring millions to achieve weight loss success and transforming Nidetch herself from a Queens, N.Y. housewife into a global healthy-living icon.

Born October 12, 1923 in Brooklyn, N.Y., Nidetch struggled with her weight throughout her early life, experimenting with countless “fad diets.” Having reached more than 200 pounds by the time she was 38, Nidetch made a commitment to reclaim her health in 1961. It was then that she turned to a regimen sponsored by the New York Board of Health to embark on her weight loss journey. She recognized the need for support and enlisted a group of friends who all wanted to lose weight to meet for regular check-ins, hosted in her living room. Within two months, 40 women were meeting weekly to chart their progress and keep each other accountable to their weight loss goals. Nidetch’s innovative approach was considered an overwhelming success and Nidetch herself lost 72 pounds. She officially launched Weight Watchers in 1963, taking the company public five years later.

“Jean was an inspiration and an innovator who leaves behind a legacy and program that has positively impacted the health and well-being of millions of people around the world,” said Jim Chambers, President and Chief Executive Officer, Weight Watchers International, Inc. “It is our honor and responsibility to carry on her legacy to help more people to transform their lives.”

Throughout her life, Nidetch continued to advocate for the advancement of women in business and politics. In addition to Weight Watchers, she established the Jean Nidetch Women’s Center and Scholarship program at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas for students who have overcome adversity to achieve their academic goals and the Jean Nidetch Dissertation Award at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Nidetch received many awards and accolades over the years, most notably:

  • In 1988, Nidetch was voted one of the “100 Most Important Women of the 21st Century” by Ladies’ Home Journal.
  • Having risen to success from a disadvantaged youth, Nidetch was nominated to join the Horatio Alger Association in 1989. Other honorees include Art Buchwald, Julius Irving, James Earl Jones and Maya Angelou.
  • Nidetch was named one of the “Who’s Who of 20th Century Women” in 1995.
  • In 1998, Nidetch was included in “1,000 Years, 1,000 People: Ranking Men and Women Who Shaped the Millennium” for her achievements in founding and building Weight Watchers to what it is today and helping millions of people to improve their eating habits and successfully lose weight.

In 2013, Weight Watchers celebrated its 50th anniversary by dedicating its flagship center in New York City as the Weight Watchers Jean Nidetch Center, which features iconic archival imagery of the weight loss pioneer. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed March 25, 2013, “Weight Watchers Founder Celebration Day,” honoring the New York native whose passion for helping others ignited a weight loss revolution.

Today, the Weight Watchers model that Nidetch founded five decades ago continues to evolve as new scientific knowledge comes to light, ensuring that the program reflects and incorporates the latest evidence on nutrition and behavior change. Nidetch’s vision of living a sustainable and healthy lifestyle continues to guide Weight Watchers in their plan modifications.

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About Weight Watchers International, Inc.

Weight Watchers International, Inc. is the world's leading commercial provider of weight management services, operating globally through a network of Company-owned and franchise operations. Weight Watchers holds more than 36,000 meetings each week where members receive group support and learn about healthy eating patterns, behavior modification and physical activity. Weight Watchers provides innovative, digital weight management products through its websites, mobile sites and apps. Weight Watchers is the leading provider of Online subscription weight management products in the world. In addition, Weight Watchers offers a wide range of products, publications and programs for those interested in weight loss and weight control.