Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Weight Watchers Old Exchange Program

Over the past several days, I have been weighing my various gluten-free weight-loss options: 
  • simple calorie counting
  • 60-carbs and 60-protein grams
  • The South Beach Diet
  • Weight Watchers Points Program
  • Weight Watchers Old Exchange Program
  • JUDD
  • maintaining where I’m currently at
  • or something else
Between the celiac disease, dairy sensitivity, and corn intolerance, I don’t want to get myself into anything that’s too complicated.

I think that’s why the current Weight Watchers Points Program didn’t work for me. Along with not being able to implement the points for gluten-free flour into my recipes, counting points was complex. While many people find the points simple to implement, with the number of health issues I’m juggling and the way my gluten-free recipes have to be constructed, it wasn’t for me.

My Decision

GFCF Chocolate Ice Cream
I have spent several days weeding through my Fitday account. Erasing the foods I can no longer eat was long overdue. I needed to take some time to check out how many calories and carbohydrates my gluten-free breads and other recipes I have. 

The numbers were not good. 

My dairy-free chocolate ice cream recipe was 44 carbohydrates and over 300 calories per cup! The hamburger bun I use for sandwiches or toast was only slightly better, so I didn’t even bother tallying up my cookies. It’s no wonder I’ve regained all of the weight I lost on the HCG Diet!

I also joined a new weight-loss forum called My Fitness Pal, but I haven’t had much time to check it out yet.

Throughout all of this, I’ve been waffling back and forth between the various options. I know I have to do something to get my eating back under control, but it needs to be a way of eating I can live with peacefully. I can’t take hHCG any more because most versions are made with ethanol. Plus, the pharmaceutical industry has now made it impossible to even get authentic homeopathic versions.

One of the problems I ran into doing a low-carb diet was finances. The way our budget is set up, we don’t have very much money for food on the week we pay the rent, unless I have a good week at Textbroker, an online content site I write for, so I need a plan that can be adapted to fit our budget as well as my health problems.

GFCF Chocolate-Chip Muffins
This morning, I revisited what first attracted me to the South Beach Diet. It wasn’t the carbohydrates – although many people who stall on the Atkins Diet do find those extra carbs tempting. What attracted me was the easy way in which the diet is implemented. It counts servings of starchy carbs and fruit rather than counting calories, carbohydrates, or points. That made it closely related to the Old Weight Watchers Exchange Program.

Doing that reflection brought me to the realization that I have been chasing after rainbows that were already sitting in my backyard. Even though I don’t have the individual mini-pamphlets that tell you how to count fast foods or basic ready-made recipes that they slowly passed out during the first six weeks of the Quick-Start Program, I can’t eat that stuff anyway. So what’s stopping me from going back to what worked before?

What’s preventing me from implementing the basic Old Weight Watchers Exchange Program? It’s not like I don’t remember what it is. I do. I just never carried through on the discussions I’ve had with my husband about it.

The Old Weight Watchers Exchange Program 1985

The Old Weight Watchers Exchange Program comes in a variety of styles. Weight Watchers is known for their frequent marketing tweaks and gimmicks. I first joined before they came out with the Quick Start Program. In the '80s, there was no introductory diet (similar to Atkins Induction) to help you lose weight a bit faster for the first month. That came later on. The exchange program was simple and straight forward. I lost very well on it.

Sometime later, Weight Watchers came out with the Quick Start Program, and then a more flexible Quick Start. I'm familiar with all of them. The later exchange plans were less balanced and gave the dieter more freedom of choice, but I found that those versions of the diet didn’t work as well as the original exchange plan did as I was more tempted to spend my floating exchanges on starchy carbs and sugars rather than protein.

Quick Start drastically cuts your calories for the first few weeks, but it is not necessary to go to those extremes to make the diet work. I don’t remember the quick start values because new dieters only ate that way for the first three weeks. I'll have to do some research to find that out.

The plan I'm most familiar with was: 
  • Protein: 9 ounces (men: 12 ounces)
  • Non-fat milk, plain yogurt, sugar-free pudding*, or diet hot cocoa: 2 cups
  • Fruit: 3 servings (men: 5 servings)
  • Non-starchy vegetables: 4 servings minimum, but unlimited
  • Breads, cereals, starchy vegetables: 2 to 3 servings (men: 4 servings)
  • Fats: 3 teaspoons or 6 teaspoons of salad dressing
  • Optional calories: 550 calories per week to spend on anything you want (including sugars)
*sugar-free pudding was 1/2 cup to replace 1 cup milk

The Old Weight Watchers Exchange Program 1992

When they tweaked the program, they were trying to make the diet more flexible so more individuals would be interested in joining. This tweaked version, however, was less nutritious since it allowed you to spend floating exchanges as well as increased the number of calories per week you could spend on anything you wanted. 

While those extra calories made room for the occasional piece of cake, if you ate them all every single day, you could stall. After the first month, this was the full Quick Start diet:
  • Protein: 4 to 6 ounces (men: 6 to 8 ounces)
  • Non-fat milk, yogurt, sugar-free pudding* or diet hot cocoa: 2 cups
  • Fruit: 2 servings (men: 3 servings)
  • Non-starchy vegetables: 2 minimum; unlimited, but 4 were recommended
  • Breads, cereals, starchy vegetables: 2 servings (men: 3 servings)
  • Fats: 2 teaspoons or 4 teaspoons of salad dressing
  • Floating exchanges: 7 per day
  • Optional calories: 750 calories per week to spend on anything you want (including sugars)
*sugar-free pudding was 1/2 cup to replace 1 cup milk

Floating exchanges simply make up for the reduced exchanges given in the minimum daily plan, but if you spend them on breads and cereals, rather than protein, fruit and fat, you can wind up losing muscle. It was a step toward their current points program that places no demands on you nor provides nutritional balance as the first group of diet exchanges do. 

In fact, when my husband and sons came down with boils for many, many months I never caught the infection myself until I went off the first Old Weight Watchers Exchange Plan.

In Hindsight

In hindsight, I didn’t understand about Leptin, nor how the body will only allow you to lose a certain percentage of weight before it becomes concerned about the perceived famine and starts to fight further fat loss by drastically increasing hunger. I didn't realize how important it was to follow the original exchange plan rather than the tweaked version when I rejoined Weight Watchers the second time around. 

Today, I would do things differently. 

Crashing Leptin simply means your body needs a maintenance break in order to feel safe and reset your unbalanced hormones. You don't need a free-for-all. You need to seriously work on maintaining the weight you have lost. Once the body readjusts to your new maintenance level, you can then go back to dieting again.

It’s extremely important that if you have lost a fair amount of weight (more than 10 to 15 percent or your original body weight) that you don’t just use intuitive eating for maintenance because your body will be hard-wired to do whatever it takes to restore the body fat it has lost. It’s a matter of survival, and a point I did not value as much as I should have when I came off of the HCG Diet.

Crossing Over to the Old Weight Watchers Exchange Program

The Old Weight Watchers Exchange Program is where I’m headed next, so I'll be recording that adventure as well as talking about more diet particulars in future posts.

*UPDATE: Life has been a bit crazy for us over the past couple of years, so I didn't get an opportunity to implement the lifestyle changes I really wanted to make yet. Things are calming down now, so I've been doing some research on these old Weight Watcher diets. 

For an up-to-date, more detailed post on the Old Weight Watcher's Exchange Plan, you'll want to visit my newest post:

Old Weight Watcher's Exchanged Plan Explained

This is about the plan I actually followed. I also did a new post on the Quick Start Program as well. It explains how to do that one in more detail too. 

Weight Watcher's Quick Start Programs

With a little more research, I learned there was more than one Quick Start Program, so the articles above include everything I could find about the exchange programs so far.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email or leave a comment below.


  1. how did you make out?? I just came to the same conclusion, having lost 65lbs on WW in 1987. I could never make the points system work for me, and you articulated why! I have been on the old exchange program for a week and lost 3lbs. I am cautiously optimistic.

    1. sweet i liked the old system and would like to get the food exchange lists tho

    2. I just downloaded the Google Document that someone made for us and linked to here in the comments. You can do that too if you like. It has a Reader's Digest version of the food lists. I still have to take a closer look at it myself.

  2. Sorry, I somehow missed your comment last month. I got sidetracked after I posted this, so I haven't started the diet yet. I really, really liked the Old Weight Watchers' Exchange Program, and don't see why it wouldn't work. Especially since my body doesn't even want to think about going into Ketosis again. It isn't worth the fight. At least, not for me.

  3. Why use an off-the-shelf diet?

    You seem to have done a lot of self-experimentation. Use that knowledge to construct your own 'way of eating'. That's what I did. I originally read Taubes' WWGF, Atkins, South Beach, Primal Blueprint, Paleo Solution, etc. But in the end, for me, I just cut out the foods that made me fat (which were basically carbs, though I did have to watch the protein some, and once I got down to the last 20lbs I also had to watch calories). In other words - I had to continually self-experiment. You have to find something that is *not* a diet, but a way of eating that is something you're happy with to do for the rest of your life. I realize exchanging 'diet' for 'way of eating' is just semantics but hopefully you get the point.

    Another thing I've found is that stress is much more of a weight-loss inhibitor for me than is usually given credit. I realize there is lots of discussion on cortisol and its impact out there but I know for me it's a big deal. 4.5 months of CrossFit while still cutting calories, and resulting in weight gain (when my goal was to lean out/gain definition) is a testament to that.

    I wish you the best, and keep blogging to keep us apprised of your progress!


    1. I always think I'm going to do that and end up with no self control at all, especially if there's candy around.

  4. When I was traveling the low-carb path in 2007, I started with the Atkins' off-the-shelf diet, and then made adjustments to the fat content and calories as needed to drop the weight. After a few months, I also discovered that I needed more carbs in my diet than a typical low carber does. That left me sitting somewhere between low carb and a standard low fat diet. Basically, limbo.

    I intend on doing exactly the same thing now, except I'll be creating my own diet by using the old Weight Watchers' program as a solid foundation from which to build upon, rather than Atkins. When I was following this way of eating, I was at my healthiest, so I believe it's a good place from which to start.

    Thank you for your comments. I totally agree with you.

  5. I just put together a make-shift version of the old Weight Watchers Exchange Booklet:


    1. I was interested in having a copy of the weight watchers exchange booklet. I lost a lot of weight on the program in the 80s as a teenager. I think you eat healthier on the exchange program rather than the points program. My E-mail addressis deanakwood@yahoo.com It is July 23 2013. If you could help me in this matter it would be greatly appreciated.

  6. I lost so much weight on ww plan in 94'. I do not like the points system...its too liberal with junk foods. Gonna pull my old stuff out and try to do the quick start and proceed thru the program.. Do u know of any online or where I can get any of this info? I'm missing some items....Sherry

  7. I haven't found any online sources for the old Weight Watchers' booklets yet, but if I run into any of them, I'll post the link. I could kick myself for throwing them all away when I went through my divorce many years back, but I think that generalizations are probably close enough for the diet to work.

    I've been told that some of the old Weight Watcher's cookbooks have the plan inside the books, but I haven't checked out that info yet. What they have is more likely just the basic plan which many of us have already pieced together.

    1. I am also looking for any information I can on the old exchange program. I lost a ton of weight on that and kept it off for a good period of time. I've been struggling with "points" programs...too many choices, too much temptation to just continue eating the crap that once I start eating, I can't stop. Will appreciate any help!

  8. Hey there! I am about to restart myself on the old WW exchange type program too for all the same reasons. I was wondering how you ending up doing with this idea and if you have any tips/info. to share.

    1. Man, I do not like the way these comments are set up. I might have to change my website skin, to make it easier.

      I ran into a major lifestyle issue for a while ago. And we had to make a long-distance move, so I never got around to implementing this. Since I'm gluten-free, that's going to affect the results, but I don't know by how much. I'm going to take a close look at the Google Document someone posted the link to above (it has general information at the bottom of the templates) and try to run down some old Weight Watcher's Cookbooks at the library with the program in it.

      But I'll be definitely posting some weight watcher's stuff, because I plan to start eating this way beginning tomorrow.

  9. Very nice review. I like Weight Watchers because of the way they communicate.

  10. The 80s version certainly was the best in every way for me as well. I just started it again. The part of where you learn to say no to yourself is important. Two and a half years later, how did you make out?

  11. I too lost 100 lbs. on the 1992 version of WW. I needed the structure that the daily log provided. It was so easy to follow. If I didn't eat all of my exchanges and was hungry then I would go see what was left :). Sometimes it was a weird combination but filled my stomach. It was my safety net and I never felt guilty. Some days I wasn't as hungry and didn't eat it all. Every week after weigh in I would treat myself to one chicken fajita soft taco with a small queso. Yum! Then it was back to work until next weigh in. I live in Texas and I love Mexican food. The exchange list kept me legal and healthy. Now that I have found the old information let's see if it is still magic. But I can't find a new WW 32 oz. water mug. I guess they don't make them anymore. Mine finally died. :( Note to WW; If it ain't broke don't fix it!

  12. Great blog!!! I have the WW Quick Start 1983-84 program except I don't have the step 7 about banking calories, do you remember anything about that step?

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  14. I lost alot of weight on the Older WW menu program. These were from the late 70's, early 80's They told you what to eat, how much and made menus for you to follow.for every meal I am trying to find these programs again. They worked for me & I would love to get back to my Lifetime weight. Can any one help? Would some one share?

    1. I found what I needed on 3 fat chicks diet/blog. sample menu, diet basics, daily log sheet
      good luck!

    2. Margo,
      I do have the original Weight Watcher's Diet. It's a bit complex, but I'll look for it and see if the link to it still works.

    3. Breezy,
      I've been looking at 3 Fat Chicks this afternoon, but couldn't find any exchange info. Only the point program.

    4. The link still works. It's for the 1972 version: