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
Think that WW has probably saved a lot of lives! I joined the first time back in 1970!! My biggest inspiration was a man who had lost 125 lbs. I needed to lose about 40 or 50 lbs.? then, and I felt like the fattest person alive. One of the most painful moments of my life was the night I got my pin with a diamond chip signifying a 20 lb. loss. The leaded put my pin on and said, “Congratulations. Don’t get too proud as you still have a long way to go.” I wanted to run out of the room before the tears started to fall. I stayed in the group and lost another maybe 6 lbs. That comment was made probably to encourage, but it just took the wind out of my sails. I tried WW a couple more times and with larger and larger amounts to lose, but I did not succeed. This was when the program was pretty strict , eating fish 5 times a week no less.
I do think WW is a good program and the founder had a real desire to help others. It lacks the spiritual dimension as that is not their purpose. Even though I have been a Christian for nearly 65 years, thought I was depending on God to help me, but Kim has put that missing piece in the puzzle.This is a Spiritual battle and the enemy of our souls does not want us to realize that. I just found this site a week ago and feel very hopeful that it is never too late(am 69 years old).
Thank you for posting that story. I too lost with weight watchers. But after gaining ten pounds I started hiding in sweatshirts. My worst shame was at 136! How I wish I could weigh that now. And, yes though it helped me get into my flight suit to pass an aviation physical, it did nothing for the real issues. I needed the spiritual healing from the inside. To become God’s daughter, and walk through life with Him helps us face those hurts, griefs, and broken places. Now I like the accountability of WW, and the support and encouragement, the tracking feed back of sparks page along with it’s sensible nutrition advice, but mostly the spiritual support of TBYT and First place4health with it’s Bible studies that help deal with temptation, surrender, etc. Now God is doing the work from the inside, and I’m much more confident this type of ‘surgery of the heart’ is what will help me take back my Temple for Him for good. Thank you Kimberly for faithfully serving Him in this, and having a heart to help others too. I was listening to a speech by Denzel Washington last night previously recorded at a college commencement, and funny, but it sounds a lot like what you said about Jean. It will be nice to see the story God writes out of this for each of us. Lord bless you.
Amen, Debbie – to God be all the glory for the work He is doing in each of us!
I remember reading this book years ago! She was so down to earth.
I am a current member of weight watchers. I know that my problem is spiritual BUT also, I just need to be reminded constantly “try new vegetables” etc. My WW leader is very helpful in teaching us how to take every decision and make it a good one. “take every thought captive” 😉
So for me, it is helpful. I’ve only lost 7 pounds so far, but we have to start somewhere.
Yes, WW is a wonderful program, but I don’ t want to focus on points. Like you mentioned it is the spiritual and emotional that counts. I cannot keep score with the emotions, and trials that I deal with daily. My pass deals with abandonment, neglect and abuse. God has truly comforted me through all of this, but I still tend to fall for food. I am going to do everything with the power of God to protect HIs temple. What the adversary meant for bad will be made good by the grace of God.
Amen, Sonia – I am agreeing with you in prayer!
I, too, tried, without success, WW…even when on the points system..I chose all my points to come from comfort foods, not healthy balanced choices…it has to be carb laden and “right now”..instant gratification…
Two years ago I lost 100 lbs and kept off 80 fora year and a half…now I’m struggling again to lose 20…I know what I HAVE to do but fear of the detox and carb withdrawals keep me from plunging onward…fear of that number on the scale again has to become stronger thAn the fear of detox…a healthy lifestyle is simple..not easy..but so worth the time to spend on me.
Hi Deb – that was my problem as well – using my food allocations on those that ultimately hurt me not help me (the points program didn’t exist at that time). Don’t let fear stop you from doing what is right, Deb: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).” Do not give the enemy anymore ground! Even if you focus on maintaining where you are until you can take the lost ground back, at least you won’t be starting from the beginning. Praise God for the 80 pounds of territory that you have claimed. He will give you the strength to take the rest back.