Weight Watchers Old Exchange Program Details

Chicken Breast and Broccoli over Brown Rice
The Old Weight Watchers Exchange Program
teaches you how to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Are you searching for one of the old Weight Watchers Exchange Programs? 

If so, this post introduces you to the basics for the 1985 and 1992 exchange plans, so you can get started on your dietary transformation right away. 

These are the two programs that I did myself, so I'm including links at the bottom of the article to two additional posts that go into far more detail than I did here.

Over the past several days, I have been weighing my various gluten-free weight-loss options: 
  • simple calorie counting
  • 60-carbs and 72 to 90 grams of protein
  • 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 online Weight Watchers Points Program didn’t work for me. [This is talking about Weight Watchers Online, PointsPlus.] 

Along with not being able to implement the points for gluten-free flour into my recipes, counting points was far more complex than counting calories or carbs. 

The online software had no way to handle a homemade gluten-free flour mix, so I'd have to do that part by hand. It made the software useless. I was basically paying for the PointsPlus calculator.

While many people find the Points simple to do, 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

Two Homemade Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns
Calculating the carbs and calories for my gluten-free
recipes was an eye-opening experience!

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 the gluten-free breads I make are, as well as check out the macros for the other gluten-free 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. They are 30 carbs and 280 calories each, so I didn’t even bother tallying up the gluten-free cookies. 

It’s no wonder that I’ve regained almost all of the weight I lost on the HCG Diet! I've been eating far too many calories!

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 diet options.

I know I have to do something to get my eating under control, but it needs to be a way of eating that I can live with peacefully. I can’t take hHCG any more because most versions are made with ethanol.

[Today, I'm no longer avoiding corn or dairy.]

Plus, the pharmaceutical industry has now made it impossible to even get authentic homeopathic versions. They are no longer legal.

This morning, I revisited what first attracted me to the South Beach Diet. South Beach is a low-carb, healthy fat, low-glycemic plan. It's like Atkins without the saturated fats.

Oranges, with One Cut in Half
South Beach is attractive because you don't have
to count calories, points, or even carbs.

Upon reflection, I realized that it wasn’t the carbohydrates I was attracted to – 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.

South Beach 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.

Which got me thinking:

I have been chasing after rainbows that are already sitting in my own backyard. Am I not?

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 Weight Watchers Quick-Start Program, I can’t eat most of 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 hubby about it.

The Old Weight Watchers Exchange Program 1985

Stop Watch and Race Track
Even though the original Weight Watchers Exchange Plan
worked very well, they changed to Quick Start.

The Old Weight Watchers Exchange Program comes in a variety of styles. Weight Watchers is well-known for their frequent marketing tweaks and gimmicks almost every single January. 

I first joined before they came out with the Quick Start Program. In the mid '80s, there was no introductory diet 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 weight very well on it.

Sometime later, Weight Watchers came out with the Quick-Start Program, and then a more flexible Quick-Start Plus. There also was a third Quick-Start plan that they went to after I left, which gave even more freedom. 

I am familiar with all of these plans. 

Quick Start was simply a way to kick-start the dieting process. By the end of the month, you were back on the original Weight Watchers exchanges, so I haven't done any research on that one.

The later exchange program, Quick-Start Plus, was less balanced than the first exchange plan, due to the floating exchanges, but they gave the dieter more freedom of choice. When I did Quick Start Plus, however, I found that it didn’t work as well as the original exchange plan did.

I was more tempted to spend my floating exchanges on starchy carbs and sugars rather than getting enough protein to keep me full and satisfied.

Cheeseburger on a Huge Bun
Floating exchanges only encouraged me to eat more
bread, potatoes, rice, and pasta.

Both Quick-Start programs drastically cut your calories for the first few weeks, but it really isn't necessary to go to those extremes to make the diets work if you don't want to. They were just a gimmick to get you hooked on the Weight Watchers plan, which really didn't need a hook.

I don’t remember the quick-start values because new dieters only ate that way for the first three to four weeks. I'll have to do some research to find out what those original stats were

[Links to our posts that give the full details for all of these plans is found at the bottom of this article.]

The plan I'm most familiar with was this one: 
  • Protein: 9 ounces (men: 12 ounces)
  • Non-fat milk, plain non-fat 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 must be made with non-fat milk. A serving size was 1/2 cup and replaced 1 cup non-fat milk.

In the 80s, Weight Watchers also made their own ice cream, which you could count toward your fruit and milk exchanges, due to the way it was formulated. It used fake fats that are no longer legal to use because a lot of people reacted adversely to them, so the ice cream is no longer on the market.

I have no experience with current Weight Watchers products, due to celiac disease.

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 and attending the meetings. 

This tweaked version, however, was less nutritious since it allowed you to spend your floating exchanges on the foods you like best. It also 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 the exchanges they gave you and all of your weekly calories, you could easily stall, especially once your calories equaled the amount of energy you were expending daily. 

This is because these Weight Watchers plan don't go lower than 1400 to 1500 calories.

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 must be made with non-fat milk. A serving size was 1/2 cup and replaced 1 cup non-fat 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.

[This is speaking about the Points and PointsPlus programs that were flexible enough to work almost anything you wanted into those plans. SmartPoints are different. Since they penalize saturated fats and sugars, they force you to make healthier choices, but it's still not a perfect plan because healthy foods like cheese and avocados are heavily penalized.]

In fact, when my now ex-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 levels dropping as your weight goes down, making you more hungry than you were when you were fat. Leptin is a hormone that crosses the blood-brain barrier and communicates to your brain just how much body fat you have stored. 

When there's less fat stored, it makes you hungrier, so you'll eat and replenish the fat.

I also didn't understand how the body will only allow you to lose a certain percentage of weight before it becomes concerned and starts to fight against fat loss by drastically increasing hunger and making other physical adaptions. 

The body's goal is to bring you back into energy balance, so fat loss will stop. It doesn't understand what a diet is. Nor, does it believe that filled fat stores are unhealthy.

I didn't realize how important it was to follow the original exchange plan rather than the tweaked version they gave me when I rejoined Weight Watchers the second time around. 

Today, I would do things differently. 

Crashing Leptin levels simply means your body needs a maintenance diet break in order to feel safe and reset your hormone levels. 

You don't need a free-for-all when you take a break. 

You need to seriously work on maintaining the weight you have lost already. 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.

For the mind and body, it's a matter of survival, and a point I did not value as much as I should have when I first came off the HCG Diet.

Keep in mind that mindful eating and intuitive eating are not the same thing. With intuitive eating, you ask your body what it wants. In a dieted-down state, the body always wants to refill its fat stores.

Mindful eating is when you use a little common sense and awareness to provide your body with the nutrients it needs for good health and function. You stop eating when you're not hungry, and try to catch and eliminate non-mindful eating habits that are causing you to overeat.

Thinking of 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. 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 Watchers Exchanged Plan Explained

This is about the plan I actually followed. I also did a new post on the Quick Start Programs 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:


  15. I too lost 62 pounds in the early 90's on the original exchange plan. Every time I rejoined WW I've had trouble with the points program and only lose a few pounds before I get frustrated. I have found all my original WW paperwork and my cookbooks. I've been on track for 5 days and have lost 5 lbs!
    I hope your blog is still running I'd like to have someone/someplace to be accountable too.
    1.Accountability is one of the important factors in the success of the program.
    2. Tracking your exchanges.
    3. Water intake. This helps wash the excess sodium out of your system and also helps remove the "used up/lost" fat from your body.
    4. Exercise gotta move to lose. Even as little as 20 minutes 3 times a week. It's a doable amount for most people.
    If you are still up and running I'd like to hear from you! Kris crafty323@hotmail.com


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