Weight Loss and Food Thoughts


WW 1972 Plan

[Special thanks to GoaDie Jane for mailing her saved Weight Watchers materials from the 1970s and 1980s to me to read.]

The source document being reviewed is “Weight Watchers(R) Program Handbook for Ladies” with a (C) Weight Watchers International, Inc., 1972-73. This was used approximately 2 years after the Jean Nidetch’s book was published and reflects ~10 years of work. For example instead of using a diet created by the New York Board of Health, the back page indicates the plan was “developed under the supervision of William H. Sebrell, Jr., M.D., Medical Director of Weight Watchers International—former director of the National Institutes of Health, and the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University—with the assistance of Weight Watchers staff nutritionists.”

Some quick observations (as compared to what is described in the Nidetch book about the original program):

  • Concept of lifetime membership and 2 lb rule was now in existence (permitted to attend 1 free meeting per month)
  • Mandatory requirement to see a physician prior to starting removed
  • Diet was multi-phase with a standard plan, a leveling plan (w/in 10 lbs of goal) and a maintenance plan
  • The original ~11 or so rules about food have now morphed into 14 with more gradations between items, e.g. vegetables are divided into more categories. Also no skipping breakfast is an un-numbered rule.
  • There is a little more room for variation (rule #10 is the “Choice Group”) which allows you to replace 1 slice of bread with an alternative starch/protein (beans, pasta, peas, etc.)
  • Overall still remains to a very-low-calorie (~1000/day or less) diet

And summarizing (list leads off with “NEVER, NEVER SKIP A MEAL”):

  1. Dietetic products - generally not permitted (exception for artificial sweeteners and other items as listed)
  2. Unlimited items are sub-divided into A/B. A = unlimited and B = limited. A list is things like herbs, mustard, salt, pepper, water. B list is bouillon cubes, extracts and flavors, and gelatin which all have specific limits.
  3. Vegetables - sub-divided into A/B. A = unlimited, B = “moderate amounts”. Moderate = 4 cups/day raw or 2 cups cooked. Unlimited veg are the very low calorie items like celery, lettuce, etc. The moderate are the vegetables with slightly more calories like squash, pickles, eggplant, broccoli.
  4. Vegetables - Mandatory 4 oz (at noon or evening meal) - carrots, okra, peas, pumpkin, turnips. And bounce of 12 oz tomato juice still available
  5. Fruits - 3 fruits/day. One must be at breakfast. At least 1 of 3 must be from list 1 and there is a list 2 as well for the other 2. There is also a list #3 that can be used 1x/week instead of a 1-2, banana, grapes, cherries with special rules limiting apples/pear if you take from list #3. Seems unnecessarily complicated
  6. Fish, Meat and alternatives (3 groupings A, B, C.) A = seafood, mostly 5x/week; B = red meats mostly = 3x/week, C = other meats incl chicken/turkey. Portion size 4 oz uncooked lunch/6 oz uncooked dinner.
  7. Liver - keep eating it once/week
  8. Bread - 1 slice bfast, 1 slice lunch for women
  9. Cereal - unsweeteneed may be used - replaces the bread w/ brfast and must be taken with milk. New to 1972 plan vs. prior plan
  10. Choice group - sub out 1 slice of bread for beans, pasta, peas, potato, rice
  11. Fats - specify limits for use at mealtimes
  12. Eggs/cheese - 4 eggs/week; 4 oz max hard cheese weekly
  13. Milk - 2 glasses of milk/day
  14. Do not eat list - bunch of things not to eat including alcohol, butter, cake, etc. Very similar to 1960’s list.

The rules then need to be viewed in the context of the meal plan:


- Juice OR fruit

- One of: 1 oz cheese, 2 oz fish, 1 egg, or cereal (1oz) w/ milk

- Bread


- One of: 4 oz meat, veg alternate (7 oz), 2 oz cheese, 2 eggs

- Optional: Vegetable (Rule #3)

- 4oz Vegetable #4 (or with dinner)

- 1 slice brad


- One of: 6 oz fish, veg alternate (10 oz)

- Optional: Vegetable (Rule #3)

There are also daily/weekly reminders to get some fat, milk, weekly liver, and so forth.