I’m a pound away from reaching my 20-pound goal for the #SocialDiet, and many others in the group are seeing exactly the same success. To summarize, we've found that setting up a small, social group for mutual support around exercise and eating is a mighty positive thing for weight loss. Calorie tracking, which we do with MyFitnessPal, is essential. Reaching the 10K steps goal is easy when everyone is aiming at the same goal and using a tracking device like UP or FitBit (Sean Kelley broke 40K steps the other day on his 40th birthday, a group record!). We have recently held a couple of Google+ Hangouts to talk about our experiences and there will be a feature article in the Jan/Feb 2014 issue for those interested in starting their own groups on our model. We were the guinea pigs, but readers will be able to benefit.

The good news for me is about food: the arrival of fall, which puts me into soup, chili and pressure-cooker stew mode. I like soup, but not much in the summer because I don’t like it served cold. Fall flavors make for filling dinner soups without much fat and no need for cream. Vitamix sent us a mixer and it’s a soup monster. I like to make a basic, thick soup and then garnish with high-flavor additions. The photo shows a base of roasted carrots, a few boiled small potatoes, and a big, chopped onion that was sautéed until soft in a generous glug of olive oil with oregano, thyme, a bit of curry powder, a wee bit of smoky bacon, and some fiery harissa paste. The whole mess was then dumped into the Vitamix with low-sodium chicken stock. The jet engine in the machine turned it into a smooth, rich, complex soup.

The soup's garnishes are interesting: Mexican chorizo that I fried and crumbled: little salty nuggets of spicy meat. Plus I made a tarragon-Meyer-lemon oil. So easy: put the peel from one Meyer lemon (from New Zealand!) in a small food chopper with olive oil and a wad of tarragon. Puree. Let sit for a couple of hours, then strain the oil.

The bad timing bit is simply fall's dark mornings and evenings; it’s straining my running schedule. I loathe treadmills, spin classes and any sort of classes. Anyone have a suggestions for cold-weather aerobics? Gotta get my 10K steps per day—I may just bundle up, buy a reflective vest and “enjoy” the coming cold and dark days…

Share your advice! Comment here, email, and tweet @ScottMowb or @Cooking_Light using #SocialDiet.