Weight Loss and Food Thoughts


WW 1980 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 for this post is a document “Weight Watchers Personal Program” (C) Weight Watchers International, Inc. 1980.

Changes compared to the original 1960’s plan:

  • Concept of a multi-faceted strategy emphasized (food plans [3 different diets to pick from], personal action plan [focused behavior change], exercise, and support)
  • Nutrition concepts discussed with participants
  • Plan broken into weekly modules (still seems to have been delivered as a single monolithic booklet but by 1989 the later strategy of providing a printed module each week seems to have been in swing)
  • Emphasis on on the science behind the program starts appearing front-and-center in the materials
  • The three diets are called “The Full Choice Plan”, “The Limited Choice Plan” and “The No Choice Plan”
    • All seem to be based on the same template with the toggle being how completely WW has documented out what you will eat each day of the week
    • The no choice plan is 2 weeks of pre-planned menus
  • Seems to be much more in the model of what today we would call an exchange-based diet program, also gone are the litany of rules, rather the diet is presented through the lens of the meal template and followed with the exchange lists.
    • Fish is down to 3x/week
    • Liver is still present
    • Tomato juice bonus is down to 8oz (was 12 oz) and can instead be clam juice or tomato puree/etc.
  • Alcohol allowed for the first time (was prohibited in both 1960’s and 1970’s), 3x week

The Full Choice Plan structure is:

Morning: 1 fruit/fruit juice + One of: egg, cheese, cereal (with milk), peanut butter, or meat of fixed portion size

Mid-day and Evening meal: One of: meat (different amounts for men/women), egg, cheese, peanut butter, legumes

Daily: fruits (3 women, 4-6 men), vegetables 2 servings (minimum), milk (2 servings), bread (2-3 women; 4-5 men), fats (3 servings)

You then have exchange lists with some of the guidelines of the old program worked in as well as the condiments (free items), “extras” (3x/day max) like imitation bacon bits and bouillon, and 20 calories (yes only 20!) to use on low cal beverages, ketchup, salad dressings, gelatin, jams, syrups, etc.

This is the first time that they appear to provide ANY ranges in terms of what to eat, e.g. 2-3 servings of bread. So there are now more calories in the program potentially for different female (or male) participants. This is still in aggregate a low calroie diet, but at the higher end of the ranges it is probably ~1200 calories/day with all of the extras, the 3 weekly alcoholic beverages, and the 20 calories/day for extras.

To my mind this version of the program seems to incorporate the first cognitive behavioral elements that go beyond diet into thinking patterns, exercise, and more into the program. It also seems to be a solid move away from the rigidity of the early 60’s (and 70’s) program into something that can be seen almost as an exchange program. Materials from 1989 (~25th anniversary) show a full-fledged exchange program. That exchange program continued until ~1997 when the first Points-based program was introduced.