Jean Nidetch’s book “The Memoir of a Successful Loser The Story of Weight Watchers” (1972) outlines a bit of Jean’s personal history and struggle with food, weight, fat, and weight loss as well as providing a window into the early years of Weight Watchers.
The original diet plan was actually adapted from a New York City public health clinic for obesity. I found Jean’s depiction of exceedingly obese (young) people in the 1960’s telling too because it indicates that it is not all a modern phenomenon. Also Jean’s natural talents as an entrepreneur and saleswoman come across too.
The program was by today’s “eat what you want just track” it standards quite strict. There were no substitutions and for all the sturm and drang about everyone getting 29 PointsPlus today, every single participant was eating the exact same (low calorie) diet*.
(* aside men received slightly large allotments of some items than women)
The basic rules were:
- No meal skipping (you must eat breakfast, lunch and dinner)
- No substitutions (nothing required can be eliminated, nothing not stated can be added)
- No calorie counting
- No alcohol
- No appetite suppressants
And in terms of what to eat there were 11 numbered rules combined with some additional per meal guidances:
- Eat only food listed in quantities specified
- Unlimited foods (very low calorie items like boullion, soy sauce, vinegar, tea, water, lime, herbs, etc)
- Unlimited vegetables on list (w/o dressing; list is of non-starchy vegetables) + bonus up to 12 oz [100%] tomato juice
- Limited vegetables (4oz/day max; mildly starchy vegetables, e.g. peas, but still no potatoes, grains or corn)
- Fruits X servings/day (3 day/women; 5 day/men) - specific serving sizes excluded fruits: avocados, bananas, cherries, dried fruits, grapes, papayas, magos, and watermelon. Also fruit packed in juice is excluded.
- Meats, Fish and poultry - Specific cooking instructions to avoid fats and sauces. 5 fish meals/week. Lunch serving is 4 oz of cooked. Dinner is 6 oz women and 8 oz men. Generally lean meats and skin from chicken is to be removed. Fattier meats are limited to 3x/week.
- Liver - cooked liver 1x/week (PS the fancy name for organ meats is offal and it is very good for you)
- Bread - enriched white/100% whole wheat. Men 2 slices/breakfast and lunch; women 1 slice/breakfast and lunch.
- Eggs and cheese - At least 4/week, but not more than 7. Cheese as indicated (breakfast 1 oz hard; lunch 2 oz hard)
- Milk - instant non-fat dry or buttermilk (from skim). 16 oz/day
- Prohibited list - alcohol, bacon, beer, butter, cake, candy, catsup, cereals, chocolate, coconut, cookies, crackers, cream cheese, corn, cream, doughnuts, fries, fried foods, gravy, honey, ice cream, ices, jam, jelly, mayo, muffins or biscuits, nuts, oil, olives, pancakes, peanut butter, pies, popcorn, potatoes, potato chips, pretzels, pudding, rice, rolls, salad dressings, sardines, smoked fish or meat, soda or ginger ale, spaghetti, sugar and syrups, waffles
These 11 rules then got linked to daily food requirements:
- 4 oz OJ/grapefruit juice OR 1/2 grapefruit (counts as 1 fruit)
- 1 egg (or 1 oz hard cheeses or 2 oz fish)
- bread (1 slice women/2 men)
- 4 oz meat
- all you want #3 vegetables
- bread (1 slice women/2 men)
- 6 oz meat (8 oz for men)
- 1 portion of #4 vegetable
- all you want of #3 vegetable
Fruits at any time of day. Everything must be eaten at the specified times. Optional items are the 12 oz tomato juice, extra #3 vegetables and the free items.
Interesting. PS - if you are willing to overlook the mandatory 2-4 slices of bread a day, this looks very low-carb-ish.
Would welcome comments on when WW started to change their plans from this (this book was written in 1972 so this clearly covers the first decade; and 1997-2010 was variations of the Points-programs; and 2010-? is PointsPlus). So what were the programs like from 1972-1997? Somewhere in there was the era of exchange programs.