Food critic Tom Sietsema will be watching points on a plate, via Weight Watchers. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Editors’ note: With better eating in mind for the new year, five Washington Post staffers each embark on a month-long effort to change their daily habits. Watch for weekly updates at

2016 was a cruel year for a lot of reasons. My lowest moment might have been the time I was doing jumping jacks in the gym and discovered a new workout partner: a roll of skin matching my ups and downs. Then again, a recent trip to Nordstrom was no picnic, either. That’s where I learned belts don’t lie, that I could no longer pretend to claim a 34-inch waist (or even a 36-inch waist). Catching my profile in mirrors or windows, I couldn’t help but see that my single chin had somehow become . . . two.

Oh, I could blame the gain on two dining guides; work trips that took me to Cleveland and Philadelphia just to eat; a vacation to Germany and Hungary that left no sausage or langos (fried bread) untried. But the reality is this: I’m a professional eater who has been spending 40 hours a week in restaurants for years. I know all about pacing, finishing only what’s truly delicious on my plate and incorporating exercise into my daily regime. But for whatever reason, I sent discipline on a holiday last year and yielded to more snacking and late-night refrigerator raids.

Something had to give — hopefully, the seven or so unwelcome souvenirs I acquired last year. I jumped at this chance to lose weight with a few of my colleagues, figuring the humiliation of public failure would be the perfect prod to get me back to a more comfortable self.

I don’t intend to take time off work to drop the pounds. Instead, I’ll be relying on Weight Watchers to help me shed weight even I as continue my restaurant rounds, eating the full range of a menu — albeit in smaller quantities.

Weight Watchers attracted me because there are no forbidden foods on the program and it offers multiple strategies (with varying fees) for shedding excess baggage. Subscribers can participate online; with the support of a group; and enlist the services of a coach. I’m opting for the whole enchilada, so to speak. I figure a meeting or two can be enlightening, and a coach can help me figure out how to calculate the number of points in, say, octopus ceviche or foie gras mousse with Sauternes gelee.