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What Was the Weight Watchers Program Like in the 1960s?

Posted Jan 17 2013 11:50am

Weight Watchers Cookbook 1967

Weight Watchers Cookbook 1967

Have you ever wondered what the Weight Watchers Program was like in the 1960s?

I picked up a copy of this old  Weight Watchers Cookbook from 1966 and have really enjoyed taking an inside peek at what Weight Watchers was like back when it began in the early 1960s. 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.

All I can say is Weight Watchers has come a long long way in 50 years! I’m not sure I would have lasted long on this original plan, with all it’s rules and restrictions. Though clearly healthy and based on the nutritional wisdom of the time, it was definitely a deprivation based “diet” with a long list of  ”Illegal Foods.”

I found myself getting anxious just reading the long list of foods that were not allowed, several of which I eat regularly. I’m glad that I originally lost weight in the 1990s on a much more liberal version of “exchanges” and am now following Weight Watchers 360 and it’s flexible PointsPlus approach to eating to keep the weight off!

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 on 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 thir 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 First Weight Watchers Plan


1. Overeating is a habit. And like any habit, it can be conquered, if you hve the will and drive to get started.

2. Proceed with your weight loss one meal at a tme, one day at a time, one week at a time. Taking one step at a time, strengthening yourself slowly, you can not fail.

3. The next time you begin to bite into a candy bar, order a fattening dessert from a restautant 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 larn how to walk properly?”

5. 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 want to become his “beautiful mommy.”

6. 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. You can stick to the program and successfully lose weight no mattter what your home, social, business, or school life may be.

9. Stick to the plan and the plan will work.

10. Once you lose the weight, follow the maintenace plan so you learn to keep the weight off.

11. To be successful on the progarm, will require your desperation, your sincerity and your cooperation and your patience.

Rule and Menus of the Original 1960s Weight Watchers Program

1. Eat only the foods listed in your Menu Plan, in the quantitites 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.

5. Meat and Poulty. Provided you use the specified number of fish meals, some of your lunches and dinners may be seleced from Group A meats and poultry or Group B 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 1/2 cup or 1 medium sized.

7. Unlimited Vegetables may be taken at any time. These include most of your non-starchy vegetables.

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. One half-cup or 1 medium orange or apple or 1/2 cantaloupe or grapefruit, or 1/4 medium-sized pineapple or 2-inch wedge of honeydew melon count as 1 fruit. No bananas, cherries, watermelon, dried fruit or grapes.

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
  • avocado
  • bacon or back fat
  • bagels
  • biscuits
  • cake
  • candy
  • cereals
  • coconut
  • cookies
  • crackers
  • cream cheese
  • doughnuts
  • fried foods
  • gefilte fish
  • gravy
  • honey
  • ice cream
  • ices
  • jam
  • jello
  • jelly
  • ketchup
  • mayonnaise
  • muffins
  • nuts
  • oil
  • olives
  • pancakes
  • peanut butter
  • pies
  • popcorn
  • potato chips
  • pretzels
  • puddings
  • rolls
  • salad dressings (except for those given in this book)
  • smoked meat or fish
  • soda, ginger ale, cola drinks
  • sugar and syrups
  • waffles
  • yogurt

1960s Weight Watchers Menu Plan for Women

Breakfast: 1 egg or 1 ounce hard cheese or 2 ounces fish or 1/2 cup cottage or pot cheese; 1 slice enriched bread

Lunch: 4 ounces fish (canned or fresh) or lean meat or poultry or 2/3 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 Program Menu Suggestions

Sample Breakfasts

1) Half Cantaloupe, Eggs, Sunny-Side Up on Toast
2) Pineapple Quarter, Two Ounces Tuna Fish on Toast
3) Cottage Cheese (2 ounces), Fresh Grapefruit Sections, Lettuce Bed, Toast
4) Fresh Fruit Cup (1/2 cup), Scrambled Egg WW, Toast
5) Broiled Half Grapefruit, Salmon (2 ounces), Toast
6) Fresh Juice of One Orange, Melted Cheese (1 ounce) on Toast
7) Half Grapefruit, WW French Toast

Sample Lunches

1) Bean-Sprout Soup, Shrimp (4 ounces), Toast
2) Tuna Fish, Mixed Lettuce w/ Radishes, Celery and String Beans, WW Dressing, Toast
3) Tomato Juice, Broiled Salmon (4 ounces), WW Cucumber Sauce, Lettuce, Toast
4) Fresh Fruit Salad, Cottage Cheese (3 ounces), Toast
5) Broiled Hamburger, One Slice Toast, Relish
6) Melted Open Cheese Sandwich on 1 Slice Toast, Fruit
7) Two Eggs on Toast, Fruit

Sample Dinners

1) WW Swordfish Diablo, Chinese Vegetables, Mushrooms, WW Lemon Gelatin
2) Tomato Bouillon, WW Butterfly Shrimp Scampi , Larde Tossed Salad, Eggplant
3) Curried Cream of Kale Soup, Broiled Trout, Carrots, Broiled Mushrooms, Stewed Fruit (1/2 cup)
4) WW Braised Beef Roll-Ups, Cucumber Salad, WW Basil Salad Dressing, WW Strawberry Ice
5) WW Beef Ragout, Mushrooms as desired, Ginger Melon Mold
6) WW Frankfurter Casserole Creole, Cole Slaw
7) 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 from the old Weight Watchers program to share? I’d love to hear from you!


Weight Watchers Cookbook  (1967)

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