You may not know the lady, but you surely know her legacy: Jean Nidetch, the founder of Weight Watchers, has died at the age of 91. In learning about her death, I found some surprises in reading about her life. We had many things in common. Like me, her purpose was born out of her pain.
Mrs. Nidetch was overweight and also dealt with emotional eating. According to her memoir, “The Story of Weight Watchers,” using food as an emotional bandaid started at a young age:
“I don’t really remember, but I’m positive that whenever I cried, my mother gave me something to eat,” she wrote. “I’m sure that whenever I had a fight with the little girl next door, or it was raining and I couldn’t go out, or I wasn’t invited to a birthday party, my mother gave me a piece of candy to make me feel better.”
For me, my mother gave me candy money to make me feel better when she had to go to work. When she dropped me off at the sitter, I used the candy money to go to the corner store. I’d buy a bar of chocolate and that would comfort me in my loneliness.
The same coping methods I discovered as a child stayed with me as an adult. For Mrs. Nidetch, they led to her top weight of 214 pounds. For me, it eventually led to 240 pounds.
Mrs. Nidetch joined an obesity clinic, but found it lacking in personal support. To meet her need to confide in someone about her struggles to lose weight, she decided to gather a few friends to share her journey.
Weight Watchers was born.
When I was 23, I remember getting on the scale and when I saw 152 pounds, I started crying. I was an R.N. and there was a Weight Watchers group at the hospital where I worked. I decided to join. I lost 15 pounds. I felt great!
Unfortunately, I ended up gaining it all back – plus more. It was no fault of Weight Watchers. It is a wonderful program, full of great resources and support for its followers. In my opinion, it is one of the best programs if all you need is a healthy eating plan and exercise to conquer your weight issues.
But for me, it just wasn’t enough. I found that Weight Watchers and other programs did not touch the Spiritual and emotional issues that led me to gain the excess weight in the first place. It took me another 15 years to get to the core of my weight issue.
Just like Mrs. Nidetch founded Weight Watchers to meet the need for personal support in weight loss, I created Take Back Your Temple to meet Spiritual and emotional needs in weight loss.
I found that only God could heal my emotional pain, which came from abandonment issues. My father was never in my life and no amount of food nor eating program could heal that. But when I learned to trust God to comfort me, He healed me from the inside out. I ended up dropping from a size 22 to a size 8.
Many people who have joined Take Back Your Temple have suffered with an emotional issue that needed healing. Some of these issues included unresolved grief, sexual molestation, incest, abuse, neglect. They may have included abandonment like me.
Through my Spiritual healing, God gave me a new identity as His Beloved daughter. I’ve discovered Spiritual gifts and purpose in Him. Finally, I’ve built amazing faith as God has used my struggles with weight to grow to trust Him even more.
I salute Jean Nidetch as a pioneer who has helped so many to develop a healthy relationship with food. We share the belief that weight loss is not about living a diet, but about living your life well.
This amazing woman was an example of leaving a positive legacy for others to follow. Even though my experience with Weight Watchers was brief, it was positive one to help me discover my own path to wellness. Thank you, Mrs. Nidetch!
Creator of the Take Back Your Temple program