Have you ever wondered what the old Weight Watchers Plan was like in the 1960s?
I picked up a copy of this old Weight Watchers Cookbook (affiliate link) from 1966 and have really enjoyed taking an inside peek at what the old Weight Watchers plan was like back when it began in the early 1960s.
Learn more about Weight Watchers program changes for 2020?
I originally lost weight and became a lifetime member with Weight Watchers back in the early 1990s, when it was an exchanges program. I think it was called Quick Success. I lost about 30 pounds in 8 months and felt incredible.
Why I think The Old Weight Watchers Food Exchanges Program (Quick Success) Was Best
Martha McKinnon's Weight Watchers Story: Part 1
Martha McKinnon's Weight Watchers Story: Part 2
Martha McKinnon's Weight Watchers Story: Part 3
I learned so much about healthy eating and portions with Weight Watchers Quick Success. You couldn't game the system by gorging on a ton of fruit or filling up on lots of junk the way you can with the new Weight Watchers Points Plan. It was much more restrictive and disciplined.
Which got me thinking about why the original 1960s plan might be a better option than points for some folks. The kind of people who do better abstaining from certain things than trying to practice moderation. (You can read more about abstainers and moderators here.)
In addition to lots of recipes, the book includes an introduction by Weight Watchers founder, Jean Nidetch, along with the plan's "Rules" and "Sample Menus." It has all the information you need to follow the original 1960s Weight Watchers Plan.
If you have not been successful with Weight Watchers Points Plus or newer programs, this may be the solution for you! Here's a link to a great food tracker if you want to give it a try. I've tried to provide a synopsis of everything you would need to get started.
In the book's introduction, Nidetch describes her years of struggle to lose weight. Anybody who has ever been overweight and worked to lose it, will relate to her story. As someone who was overweight by the time I was in 4th grade and "matronly" looking by the time I was in my late 20s, I certainly did.
The original Weight Watchers Program was based on a diet developed by the New York City Department of Health's Bureau of Nutrition that Nidetch followed after registering with one of its obesity clinics. When friends wanted the details of how she had lost weight, she began to meet with them at her house, where she shared what she knew and they talked over their common problems related to overeating.
When the little group got too big to meet at her house, she rented a basement, and then a large meeting hall in 1963, and the rest, as they say, is history 🙂
The Underlying Concepts of the Old 1960s Weight Watchers Plan
1. Overeating is a habit.
And like any habit, it can be conquered, if you have the will and drive to get started.
2. Proceed with your weight loss one meal at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time.
Taking one step at a time, strengthening yourself slowly, you can not fail.
3. Learn to delay gratification.
The next time you begin to bite into a candy bar, order a fattening dessert from a restaurant menu, walk into the bakery for a Danish pastry, stop and ask yourself: "Would I rather have this or a slim young figure?"
4. No crash dieting.
Because you must learn new habits of eating, it is useless for you to go on a "crash" or "fad" diet or to take diet pills or appetite depressants of any kind. "Why learn to use a crutch when you can learn how to walk properly?"
5. Control your environment.
Don't surround yourself with temptation by buying cookies and candies. Even a four-year-old can understand, if told, that mommy needs help because she wants to become his "beautiful mommy." (Learn how to create a healthy environment for weight loss.)
6. Learn to laugh.
We are constantly playing games with ourselves and in serious denial about why we are heavy and/or not losing weight. The book is peppered with illustrations depicting some of the favorite rationalizations heard through the years, which are timeless.
7. No alcohol. No skipping meals. No counting calories.
8. No excuses.
You can stick to the program and successfully lose weight no matter what your home, social, business, or school life may be.
9. Stick to the plan and the plan will work.
10. Maintenance is important.
Once you lose the weight, follow the maintenance plan so you learn to keep the weight off.
11. To be successful on the program, will require your desperation, your sincerity and your cooperation and your patience!!
Rule and Menus of the Old 1960s Weight Watchers Plan
1. Eat only the foods listed in your menu plan, in the quantities specified and at the meals specified. Weigh your portions until you can judge them accurately.
2. Eggs. Limit them to 4-7 per week. They may be taken only at breakfast or lunch; not at dinner.
3. Cheese. Only hard cheese or pot, cottage or farmer cheese is allowed and only at breakfast or lunch.
4. Fish. You must eat a minimum of 5 group A fish meals each week for lunches or dinners.
Group A fish:
abalone, bass, bluefish, bonito, butterfish, carp (fresh), calms, crab, croaker, cod, finnan haddie, flounder, fluke, haddock, hake, halibut, lobster, mullet, mussels, oysters, pike, porgy, salmon (canned), scallops, shad roe, shrimp, sole, sturgeon (fresh), swordfish, trout (brook), trout (lake), tuna fish (fresh or canned), weakfish, whiting
5. Meat and poultry. Provided you use the specified number of fish meals, some of your lunches and dinners may be selected from Group A meats and poultry or Group B fish. Select a maximum of 5 weekly meat meals (luncheons or dinners only from Group A and a maximum of 3 weekly meat meals (luncheons or dinners) Group B.
Group A meat and poultry:
white meat of chicken (skin removed), white meat of turkey (skin removed), pheasant, organ meats (liver, lungs, brains, kidneys, heart, sweetbreads)
Group B meat and poultry:
beef, frankfurters, lamb, dark meat of turkey
Group B fish:
mackerel, pompano, salmon (fresh), shad, white fish
6. Limited vegetables. Must eat one a day, at dinner only, 1 portion only. Vary your selection from day to day. One serving is 4 ounces, or ½ cup or 1 medium sized.
artichokes, bamboo shoots, beets, brussels sprouts, carrots, eggplant, green beans, okra, onions, parsnips, peas, pumpkin, scallions, squash (yellow), tomato, tomato juice, turnips
7. Unlimited vegetables may be taken at any time. These include most of your non-starchy vegetables.
asparagus, beet greens, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, endive, escarole, bell pepper, kohlrabi, lettuce, mung bean sprouts, mushrooms, mustard greens, parsley, pickles, pimentos, radishes, rhubarb, sauerkraut, spinach, squash (green), string beans (french style), watercress
8. Condiments and seasonings such as bouillon, herbs, and spices, salt, pepper, and paprika, vinegar and wine vinegar, tea, coffee, horseradish, soy sauce, lemons, limes, etc, are unlimited.
9. Fruit. Three to five servings a day, depending on age and gender. One daily fruit must be either orange or grapefruit.
2-inch wedge of honeydew
¼ medium-sized pineapple
1 cup of strawberries
½ cup raspberries or blueberries
1 peach or nectarine
10. Milk. Powdered skim milk, buttermilk, or evaporated skim milk must be included in your daily program, according to the amount specified for your age/gender.
11. Bread. Eat enriched or whole grain packaged bread according to the amount allowed for your age/gender. No rolls, bagels, biscuits, muffins, crackers, cereals or special breads.
12. Do not eat or drink the following except for legal recipes given in this book:
- alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, whiskey
- bacon or back fat
- cream cheese
- fried foods
- gefilte fish
- ice cream
- peanut butter
- potato chips
- salad dressings (except for those given in this book)
- smoked meat or fish
- soda, ginger ale, cola drinks
- sugar and syrups
Old Weight Watchers Menu Plan for Women (Circa 1960s)
Breakfast: 1 egg or 1 ounce hard cheese or 2 ounces fish or ¼ cup cottage or pot cheese; 1 slice enriched bread
Lunch: 4 ounces fish (canned or fresh) or lean meat or poultry or ⅔ cup (6 ounces) cottage cheese or pot cheese or 4 ounces farmer cheese or 2 ounces hard cheese or 2 eggs; All the unlimited vegetables you want; 1 slice enriched bread
Dinner: 6 ounces cooked lean meat or fish or poultry; 1 portion limited vegetables; All of the unlimited vegetables you want
Must Be Taken At Some Time During the Day: A total of 3 fruits (one of them orange or grapefruit); 2 cups skim milk or buttermilk or 1 cup skimmed evaporated milk
May Be Taken At Any Time of the Day: Any unlimited foods, beverages, etc.
1960s Weight Watchers Plan Menu Suggestions
- Half Cantaloupe, Eggs, Sunny-Side Up on Toast
- Pineapple Quarter, Two Ounces Tuna Fish on Toast
- Cottage Cheese (2 ounces), Fresh Grapefruit Sections, Lettuce Bed, Toast
- Fresh Fruit Cup (½ cup), Scrambled Egg WW, Toast
- Broiled Half Grapefruit, Salmon (2 ounces), Toast
- Fresh Juice of One Orange, Melted Cheese (1 ounce) on Toast
- Half Grapefruit, WW French Toast
- Bean-Sprout Soup, Shrimp (4 ounces), Toast
- Tuna Fish, Mixed Lettuce w/ Radishes, Celery and String Beans, WW Dressing, Toast
- Tomato Juice, Broiled Salmon (4 ounces), WW Cucumber Sauce, Lettuce, Toast
- Fresh Fruit Salad, Cottage Cheese (3 ounces), Toast
- Broiled Hamburger, One Slice Toast, Relish
- Melted Open Cheese Sandwich on 1 Slice Toast, Fruit
- Two Eggs on Toast, Fruit
- WW Swordfish Diablo, Chinese Vegetables, Mushrooms, WW Lemon Gelatin
- Tomato Bouillon, WW Butterfly Shrimp Scampi, Larde Tossed Salad, Eggplant
- Curried Cream of Kale Soup, Broiled Trout, Carrots, Broiled Mushrooms, Stewed Fruit (½ cup)
- WW Braised Beef Roll-Ups, Cucumber Salad, WW Basil Salad Dressing, WW Strawberry Ice
- WW Beef Ragout, Mushrooms as desired, Ginger Melon Mold
- WW Frankfurter Casserole Creole, Cole Slaw
- Escarole Soup, Chicken Cacciatora, Herbed Zucchini, Maple Bavarian Cream
Helpful Hints While Dieting
Many of these concepts have definitely stood the test of time:
1. Do Not Count Calories. 200 calories of cake is never a substitute for a 200-calorie lunch. You can't bargain with the diet.
2. Weight Your Food Carefully. You'll be amazed at how much more will be on your plate when you weigh food rather than guess at it's weight.
3. Carry Your "Before" Picture and a mental image of your ideal figure with you at all times.
4. Weigh Yourself Once A Week Only. Weight can fluctuate daily for various reasons. It is the weekly average weight loss that is important. Be sure to weigh yourself at the same time each week, on the same scale, under the same conditions.
5. Take Advantage of the "Free" Foods allowed in this diet. Never allow yourself to be hungry.
6. Be Aware That You Are Learning New Eating Habits even away from home. It is possible to follow this diet plan in any restaurant anywhere in the world, if you really want to.
7. Do Not Allow sympathetic thin friends or envious fat ones to give you "permission to deviate from your diet plan."
8. Follow The Diet Honestly. The key to successful weight loss and its maintenance is learning discipline and control.
9. Think Before You Eat. When tempted to gobble, just stop and count to ten and look at your "before" picture, remember your reasons for wanting to reduce.
10. Be Patient!
Do you have any favorite memories and or recipes from the old Weight Watchers program to share? Did you have success with the old 1960s Weight Watchers program? I'd love to hear from you!
Source: Weight Watchers Cookbook (1967)
Watch Martha Tell Her Own Weight Watchers Story
Martha McKinnon's Weight Watchers Success Story: Part 1
Martha McKinnon's Weight Watchers Success Story: Part 2
Martha McKinnon's Weight Watchers Success Story: Part 3
- Why I Think the Weight Watchers Food Exchanges Program is Better than Points Plus
- The Weight Watchers 360 Program
- Weight Watchers Celebrates 50 Years
- Weight Watchers Cottage Cheese Danish Recipe
- Vintage Weight Watchers Coffee Fluff Recipe
- Why I Worship the Weight Watchers Founder Jean Nidetch (The New York Times)
Martha is the founder and main content writer for Simple-Nourished-Living.
A longtime lifetime WW at goal, she is committed to balancing her love of food and desire to stay slim while savoring life and helping others do the same.
She is the author of the Smart Start 28-Day Weight Loss Challenge.
A huge fan of the slow cooker and confessed cookbook addict, when she's not experimenting in the kitchen, you're likely to find Martha on her yoga mat.
This post contains affiliate links to products I like. When you buy something through one of my Amazon links or other (affiliate links), I receive a small commission that helps support this site. Thank you for your purchase!
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Thanks for making this hard-to-find material available! I was looking to get back to the roots of the program. I was an overweight child in through the 90s and in middle school I finally "had it" and started using resources with my family like Susan Powter, Larry North, and Doris Cross' Fat Free cookbooks. As a family, we started NYD when I was in 6th grade, and by Easter of my 7th grade I lost 80 lbs, was at a healthy BMI for my height, and not shopping in the plus sized clothes for the first time in my life! My mom started Weight Watchers a couple years later when she wanted to get closer to her goal, and I used her materials too. Back then, you got a paper cardboard slider for the points, and pen-and-paper to record your meals. I don't enjoy the new apps. The older program suggestions created more balanced meals, imo.
When I was in my 20s after my first baby, I lost 56 pounds in 7 months, exactly 2 pounds per week. The first two weeks, I lost 13 pounds. I never cheated. I found the old book at amazon.com. I want to try it again to lose, 71 years old now, and for my diabetes. I think it must still be one of the best diets, I always felt good on it. I remember a pasta recipe with some mayo (you could have 3 fats a day, tsp.) onion, tuna, peas and it was sooo good. When I got desperate for dessert, I took powdered milk to make a crust for a peach pie with gelatin, a diet soda, a peach cut up. Once it set, I could eat the whole thing.
Would love to have your recipe for the salad and peach pie. Thanks. Did this program in 1968 while pregnant and it worked. Would appreciate your reply. Thanks.
Thank you so much. I lost a total of 3.5 stone way back in the 70’s and then later put 2 back on. Again I lost the 2 stone but since then have tried every diet there is, the last being keto. I have not liked the points system in WW and think it will be easier for me to stick to the old way.
I am 78 kilo at present and should be at least 70. I am 68 now and tomorrow I begin the gym again after the re-opening. Thanks again for this info refresher. Cheers Teresa
Looking for a vintage WW recipe for liver and onions. It was baked in the oven and bread was used for thickening the gravy.
Is v8 juice a free beverage
Hi Shirlely, according to the WW App, an 8 ounce serving of original V8 vegetable juice has 2 SmartPoints. Hope this helps. ~Martha
I joined WW in early 1970. I always lost weight on it. Now I am almost 75 and I need to diet again because I have gallstones! The gallstone diet is almost like the WW diet except that I should not be eating vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage until the gallbladder is removed. I did find the first WW cookbook and am using recipes from it. One of my favorite ones was the skillet chicken with onions.. I ate that cottage cheese on toast all the time way back when. I agree that it was and still is the best eating plan.
About a year late with my comment but that skillet chicken with onions recipe was one of my favorites too. In fact I still make it every so often, except now I add a little olive oil to it.
I’m looking for a recipe for my mother. She said it was tuna dressing. Baked in the oven... my email is firstname.lastname@example.org if anyone has this recipe. I’ve scoured the inter webs and can’t find it. Thanks in advance!
Do you have the recipe for the bean sprout soup? My mother used to make what she called weight watcher spaghetti made with bean sprouts and I’ve been trying to locate it. Thanks
Back in the 1960's WW had a soup that consisted of tomato juice and canned French green beans but I can't find the recipe anywhere. There was no meat etc. I don't remember the quantities of each ingredient and spices. I also think it had canned mushrooms in it. Please share if you have the recipe!
I am looking for OLD Tuna Chili recipe, but cannot find it. To the best of my memory it had Tuna Fish, Chili Powder and Diced Tomatoes. If you have it, I really would lilke to fix myself some. Oddly, I liked Tuna Chili.
This was a great read
I’m in my late 50’s & my mother took me to WW when I was 14- loved the old program
My mom would make this hot morning recipe with applesauce , cereal, dry milk but for the life of me I can’t find it anywhere & I know she got it from a team leader
We were both life time members
I’m struggling now to lose weight and searched out the old WW program - which is the only program that worked
May I please request a print out of our guide from 1969 given that it worked and I lost 59 pounds. I served in the military, and was in a wheel chair, and we got me back so I continued to serve for 23 years. Please DON'T give me anything about today.
Barbara Ann Austin Davis
I am ver interested in obtaining the very first Weight Watchers program booklets. I do not want cookbooks but just the program booklets! I list over 50 pounds back then . I am in the new weight Watchers Points Program and have only lost 5 pounds in 5 weeks. Thank you so very much . Barbara Ann Davis
Hi Barbara Ann,
You may have some success checking eBay. Losing 5 pounds in 5 weeks is very good weight loss!!! Imagine how unhappy we would be if we were gaining a pound every week!! ~Martha