A Brief History of Weight Watchers Of Philadelphia., Inc.
When you ask Marilyn Price Birnhak how it all began, she tells you that she was a fat baby. While that humorous reply appears to be nothing more to the average listener, it was that fact that served as a harbinger of a future destiny.
A native of the Fern Rock section of Philadelphia and a graduate of the city’s Olney High School, Birnhak is marking her 50th anniversary year as the founder and president of Weight Watchers of Phila., Inc. She holds the rare distinction of being one of Weight Watchers International’s longest-running and continuously owned and operated franchises.
Along with her husband, J. Robert Birnhak, a New York native and former Queens County Assistant District attorney, she was instrumental in the growth of the weight management company from its inception in 1964 with two meetings with eight members in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia.
Today, this thriving weight-loss firm has some 500 employees to accommodate up to 30,000 members weekly, attending nearly 600 meetings in over 100 individual locations covering an 11 county region in southeastern Pennsylvania and southwestern New Jersey.
Both Marilyn and Bob struggled with their own individual battles of the bulge which continued into young adulthood. After years of suffering and frustration, they were urged by friends to attend a weight-loss lecture in New York conducted by Jean Nidetch, the founder of the parent company. Bob lost 45 pounds on the program and Marilyn lost 40. Little did they know then what would be in store for the next 50 years. The Birnhaks still maintain a deep personal friendship with Nidetch.