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Founder Of Weight Watchers Dies At 91

Jean Nidetch, who founded Weight Watchers in 1963, died Wednesday at her Florida home.

Posted on April 30, 2015, at 9:58 a.m. ET

Jean Nidetch at her home in Parkland, Fla. in 2011.
Alan Diaz / AP

Jean Nidetch at her home in Parkland, Fla. in 2011.

Jean Nidetch, founder of the global weight-loss company, Weight Watchers, died at her Florida home on Wednesday. She was 91.

The concept for Weight Watchers was hatched in 1961 when Nidetch, who described herself as an "overweight housewife obsessed with cookies," was 38 and weighed more than 200 pounds. She decided to shed the pounds and enlisted a group of six friends who also wanted to lose weight to meet in her living room in Queens, New York and provide each other with moral support.

Nidetch had always struggled with her weight and experimented with countless "fad diets." She even tried a 10-week diet at an obesity clinic but could not stop eating Mallomars, chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies, The New York Times reported.

It wasn't until a neighbor mistook her for being pregnant in 1961, that Nidetch finally decided to do something about her weight.

Within two months, 40 women were meeting weekly at Nidetch's home to chart their weight-loss and help to keep each other accountable, according to an obit on the Weight Watchers website.

She wound up losing 72 pounds and in 1963 launched Weight Watchers. Today the company holds 36,000 meetings each week and operates in about 30 countries.

In 1968, the company went public and 10 years later was sold to the H.J. Heinz company for $71.2 million, The New York Times reported. Nidetch continued to be the international face of the company until 1984.

She wrote three books, established a couple of university scholarship programs and in her later years she continued as a consultant to the company she founded.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed March 25, 2013, as "Weight Watchers Founder Celebration Day" to honor Nidetch.

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