Fifty years ago this month, Bob and Iris Machiz and their partners, Jerry and Isabelle Appell, boarded a plane with their five kids and flew from New York, where they were born and bred, to Phoenix to open the state’s first Weight Watchers franchise.

A teaser ad in the local paper announcing the arrival of the company that was founded three years earlier, in 1963, by Queens housewife Jean Nidetch, attracted 16 people to the first informational meeting in September 1967, six to the second, one to the third and no one to the fourth.

Although the low turnout did drive the partners to find a bit of solace at a local ice cream parlor, they were encouraged by the fact that all 16 people in the first meeting signed up to become members.

Based on digital records since 1986, Weight Watchers of Arizona has helped more than 620,000 men and women lose more than 6.3 million pounds.

Today, Weight Watchers has 225 employees in Arizona conducting more than 250 weekly meetings at 55 locations, including 11 Weight Watchers centers, plus workplace meetings for employees at 56 companies.

“When I came down to scout the territory, all I saw were long stringy cowboys with bolo ties,” Bob Machiz said.  “But we made a go of it and it’s been an incredible run. We offer our members hope, support and a way to meet their goals for a healthy lifestyle. When you can inspire hope and help people make healthy choices, you get so much back. We’re looking forward to the next 50 years.”

Weight Watchers of Arizona has planned a celebratory dinner in October and other anniversary-related specials.

“Losing weight is just one long-term success factor of the Weight Watchers program,” said Weight Watchers of Arizona General Manager Deborah Wright.  “Weight Watchers focuses on living life fully through healthy eating habits, better fitness and positive mindset, all based on personal goals.”

That approach intrigued Oprah Winfrey enough to make a significant commitment as both a member and an investor.  It’s also what member Gina Gemma said has made a significant difference for her.

“I never thought I would be able to lose weight while still enjoying the foods I previously did, but Weight Watchers absolutely proved me wrong,” she said. “Weight Watchers helped transform me not only physically but mentally as well and for that, I cannot put into words how appreciative I am for this wonderful program.”

The regular meetings are organized and moderated by Weight Watchers Leaders “who understand first-hand the challenges and rewards of the weight-loss and building-a-healthier-lifestyle process because they have been through it themselves with us,” Wright said.

She explained that Weight Watchers “helps members make healthy eating decisions, and encourages them to enjoy life by becoming more active.  Weight management is a partnership that combines our knowledge with our members’ efforts to help make positive behavioral changes to lose weight, inspiring them with our belief in their power to succeed and motivating them every step of the way.”

Weight Watchers offers a range of membership options including Pay As You Go, 20-week and monthly.

For more information about joining Weight Watchers or to bring Weight Watchers into the workplace, visit, email or by calling (602) 248-0303.