The Weight Loss Guru: The Early Years of Jenny Craig

When Jenny Craig had her second child, she was thrilled. That excitement, however, quickly turned to depression when the weight she had gained during the pregnancy refused to go away. But Craig was not one to sit and while away her time being depressed. Instead, she decided to do something. Not only did she lose her own excess weight, but she created a business empire in the process. Today, with over 650 centres around the world, Jenny Craig Inc. has become one of the largest and most recognized companies in the weight management industry.

Craig was born as Genevieve Guidroz in Berwick, Louisiana in 1932. She moved with her family to New Orleans during the time of the Depression. In order to pay the bills, Craig’s father took on three part-time jobs. One of these was transporting staff and supplies to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. It was a difficult time for the family, but their father worked hard to make sure they were never in want.

When Craig was older, she got married and started having a family of her own. But that is when she discovered that everything was not as easy as it looked. “When I grew up in New Orleans, my mother was a fabulous Creole cook,” says Craig. “Everything we ate involved butter and fat, with lots of starches. I just figured that was the way to eat.”

All of that changed after Craig had her second daughter. Craig discovered that she could not lose the weight she had gained as easily as she had before. She was 45 pounds overweight and knew she had to change something. She just did not know what.

“My mother was always overweight after having six children,” says Craig. “I was the youngest, and I never saw her thin. She died when she was only 49 from a stroke. Looking into that mirror, seeing her there in myself, made me realize that if I wanted to live to raise my two daughters, I had to watch my weight.” On top of that, of her mother’s nine siblings, eight died before they were 50 years old, and all of them had been overweight.

“With regard to my own weight problem, I was figuring out what to do,” says Craig. “I was always one to exercise, and I wasn't losing weight. You'd talk to a doctor, and he would just say to eat less. That was the standard reply. Just eat less than you're eating.”

Craig decided to take matters into her own hands. She joined a gym called Silhouette/American Health, cut back on her food portion sizes, became more selective about what she ate, and slowly got back into shape. “What really started me off in this business was my own research into what kinds of foods I should be eating,” she says. It was then that she realized that she was not alone. “I was sure there were a lot of people just like me that want someone to tell them what to do.” With that, Craig became determine to be that someone.

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