From a living room in Queens to a global empire: how Weight Watchers took over the world –

Posted: May 30, 2020 at 9:42 am

Eleanor Halls discovers how the Weight Watchers founder Jean Nidetch built up her billion-dollar empire by readingMarisa Meltzer's This is Big

It was 1961 and 38-year-old Jean Nidetch was on her way to her local grocery store to buy, primarily, but among other things, three boxes of Mallomars. These gooey marshmallow treats would soon be stashed under the sink in the bathroom of her home, where, once the door was locked and the children distracted, Nidetch, who at 15 stone was lighter than her husband and happy about it, would consume all three boxes in one sitting.

She was thinking about this when an acquaintance walked past her in the aisle and, marvelling at her physique, asked Nidetch when she was due. Stricken, Nidetch whose cab driver father had always been proud of having a plump daughter and wife during the Depression went home, took a bracing look at herself in the mirror, and signed on to a New York obesity clinic. By 1962, she had lost 70lbs and, crucially, kept the weight off.

A naturally charismatic and glamorous extrovert who never left the house without an immaculately coiffed bouffant, Nidetch soon became a household name in her neighbourhood for weight loss tips and motivational pick-me-ups, which she dispensed to anyone who dropped by her home. Her motto: Its choice, not chance, that determines your destiny. These drop-ins soon became regular weekly salons, and on May 15 1963, Nidetch had launched Weight Watchers with her first public meeting. She was so confident of her future success that she called it Weight Watchers International.

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From a living room in Queens to a global empire: how Weight Watchers took over the world -

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