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Weight Watchers Celebrates 50th Anniversary By Honoring Its Founder - Jean Nidetch - With A Flagship Center Dedication

NEW YORK, March 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- As the world's leading provider of weight management services celebrates its 50th anniversary, Weight Watchers International, Inc. (NYSE: WTW) dedicates its flagship store in New York to its founder and weight loss pioneer, Jean Nidetch, in the city where it all began.  During the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony, fellow trailblazer and Ambassador Jennifer Hudson will pay tribute to Nidetch while Andrea Shapiro Davis, executive director of the NYC Commission on Women's Issues, proclaims March 25, 2013 "Weight Watchers Founder Celebration Day" in the City of New York, on behalf of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

In 1961, desperate to lose weight, Nidetch attended a New York City obesity clinic and found a critical component to be missing: support from others who wanted to lose weight and leadership from someone who had successfully done so. She used what she learned to begin weight-loss meetings with a group of her overweight friends in her living room in Queens.  This is where the model of the Weight Watchers meeting was born: a supportive environment of people working towards the same goal of losing weight and developing a healthier lifestyle, facilitated by a passionate Leader who had successfully done so herself.

"As we reflect on and celebrate the past half-century of success, we look to the next 50 years of innovation inspired by the passion and energy that Jean Nidetch instilled in the company from day one," said David Kirchhoff, CEO, Weight Watchers International. "Jean set the standard by building a program guided by current advancements in nutritional science, which continues to be the foundation of our approach."

Weight Watchers Senior Vice President of Marketing Cheryl Callan will present a plaque before the group ceremoniously cuts the ribbon to officially dedicate the Weight Watchers Jean Nidetch Center at 139 East 57 th Street, New York, NY, which will feature inspiring archival imagery of the New York native whose passion for helping others ignited a weight loss revolution.

"It's fitting that during Women's History Month we are recognizing this extraordinary woman and visionary entrepreneur who has inspired life-changing transformations for millions," said Callan. "We are proud to add Jean's name to our flagship New York City center in recognition of her vision, which lives on in every Weight Watchers meeting around the world."

"Fifty years ago, I could have never imagined how Weight Watchers would change millions of lives around the world," said Jean Nidetch, 89, founder of Weight Watchers. "I know firsthand how it feels to be overweight and frustrated with unsuccessful weight loss options, but it gives me such pleasure to see what the Program has become and how it continues to transform lives – like it did mine. I am grateful to be honored with this center dedication, and I hope it serves as a place of hope, success and good health for many years to come."

Weight Watchers Then and Now

After 50 years of transforming lives, Weight Watchers celebrates the vision of Jean Nidetch and the breakthroughs that have helped to shape the company and how people lose weight – all leading to the 2013 launch of Weight Watchers 360 °.

  • 1961: Jean Nidetch, a 38-year-old "overweight housewife obsessed with cookies," had struggled with her weight throughout childhood and checks herself into the Obesity Clinic at the New York City Board of Health in a last-ditch effort to lose weight, but is again disappointed. She decided to combine a sensible diet with group support meetings after she solicited several friends to do just that. Soon, 40 women were meeting to talk about their progress and keep each other accountable. After losing 72 pounds, Nidetch attracted hundreds of people by word-of-mouth who wanted to join. The first meetings were held over a pizza shop. The owner couldn't figure out why the hundreds of people lining up outside never bought anything. Nidetch worked with him to create a Weight Watchers milkshake that became a bestseller.
  • 1963: Weight Watchers International is incorporated and the first corporate meeting with 400 attendees is held in Queens, N.Y. where Jean Nidetch is elected president and treasurer. The original program encouraged members to follow a unique menu plan featuring various foods in specified quantities and to never skip meals.
  • 1967: Weight Watchers becomes global, operating through a network of 102 franchises in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, Great Britain and Israel.
  • 1970-1971: Jean Nidetch publishes "The Memoir of a Successful Loser, The Story of Weight Watchers," documenting the original Weight Watchers plan. The company moves away from "dieting" and toward "eating management" – developing tailored options to meet the varying needs of its members, including a specialized food plan for the management of weight loss plateaus and a maintenance plan.
  • 1978: Weight Watchers becomes the first weight-loss company to promote the importance of regular exercise with the introduction of PepStep.
  • 1979: Weight Watchers is asked to appear before the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources to react to the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines – an indication of Weight Watchers scientific expert stature in the field of weight control. As a result of these hearings, the U.S. Public Health Service set weight loss as the first of 79 health objectives for the country.
  • 1988: Weight Watchers begins collaboration with the American Heart Association as the Weight Watchers test kitchen develops a series of main-course recipes consistent with the American Heart Association's Dietary Guidelines for Healthy American Adults.
  • 1997: Weight Watchers introduces the POINTS ® system– a new system that used a formula of calories, fat, and fiber to assign POINTS values to every food.
  • 2001: Weight Watchers launches Weight Watchers Online, where subscribers can follow the Weight Watchers plan entirely online. For meetings members, Weight Watchers launches eTools, the internet companion to meetings, which offers digital tools to help members track POINTS values, save their favorite foods for faster and easier tracking and get ideas personalized to their stage of weight loss.
  • 2007: Weight Watchers introduces Weight Watchers Online for Men.
  • 2010: Weight Watchers launches PointsPlus ®, a new program designed to nudge members toward healthier, more satisfying food choices. The new formula used fat, carbohydrates, fiber and protein to calculate PointsPlus values.
  • 2012: Weight Watchers was ranked #1 for Best Commercial Diet Plan and Best Weight-Loss Diet for the second year in a row, as well as Easiest Diet to Follow, by U.S. News and World Report reinforcing the efficacy, scalability, and accessibility of the program.
  • 2013:  Weight Watchers furthers its commitment to long-term lifestyle change with the introduction of the new Weight Watchers 360 ° program. Built for human nature and perfectly designed for the world we live in today, the newest Program combines the most current nutritional science with the latest in behavioral science – offering a breakthrough approach that builds on the PointsPlus plan, teaching members how to build healthy routines and set up their environments to lose weight successfully and learn to keep it off. 

About Weight Watchers International, Inc.

Weight Watchers International, Inc. is the world's leading provider of weight management services, operating globally through a network of Company-owned and franchise operations. Weight Watchers holds over 40,000 meetings each week where members receive group support and learn about healthy eating patterns, behavior modification and physical activity. WeightWatchers.com provides innovative, subscription weight management products over the Internet and is the leading Internet-based weight management provider 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.

Stock quotes in this article: WTW 

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