Weight Watchers Founder Dies at 91

4/29/2015 6:46 AM PDT

Weight Watchers Founder Jean Nidetch -- Dead at 91

EXCLUSIVE

Jean Nidetch -- the woman who founded Weight Watchers -- has died.

We're told the 91-year-old passed away in the Ft. Lauderdale area early Wednesday morning.

Jean came up with the groundbreaking idea in 1961, not to start a business, but to help her in her own struggle. She had been overweight since early childhood, and at the time she was 5'7" and weighed 214 lbs. 

Jean started following basic tips ... don't skip meals, eat fish 5 times a week, veggies, etc. She soon started inviting friends over and they would talk in her living room about their common goals. 

It caught fire, and in 1963, Weight Watchers was born, and Jean became a celebrity, even appearing on Johnny Carson's show.  

In 1978 Weight Watchers was sold to the Heinz Co. for $71 million. Even after she retired, she was known as the first lady of Weight Watchers International.

Jean was living in a one bedroom apartment and, by the way, she wasn't a slave to diet. She drank regular sodas, stocked the fridge with Klondike bars and liked Mallomars, which she kept in her laundry hamper.

Jean died of natural causes.