This year marks the fortieth anniversary of Weight Watchers International, Inc., and while the program has changed considerably since its origins in the living room of its founder, Jean Nidetch, its essential core remains the same. Group support-encouragement, not judgment, from peers who have also known the shame and isolation of being fatremains key to its success. From its origins, the Weight Watchers program allayed itself with the weight loss and nutrition research community, evolving to include the latest knowledge in these burgeoning fields. Even as weight loss programs fell out of favor in the last two decades, with some researchers becoming disenchanted with the concept of restricted diets, the Weight Watchers programwith its emphasis on being a lifestyle, not a dietsurvived and thrived by continuing to reinvent itself. The food plan, which began as a fairly rigid diet couched in terms suggestive of law enforcement, has evolved into today's much more flexible POINTS system. Weight Watchers recipes-once appreciated only by fellow dietershave become mainstream fare meant to be shared, unapologetically, by all. The current program is multifaceted, incorporating exercise strategies and principles of neuro-linguistic programming along with the traditional focus on group support and eating guidelines. But the Weight Watchers philosophy (epitomized by its spokespeople, from Nidetch to the current Sarah Ferguson) remains constant, espousing that anyone, no matter how far from grace they have fallen, can start over.
- Regents of the University of California