Weight loss progress pics. What a difference a year can make!

Progress!

Progress!

I really thought I posted this here already.  Didn’t I?  I meant to.  Oh well, here we go…

Each week when I weigh in I take a front and side shot of myself.  I was comparing the pics this week and really started to see the weight loss in my face.  Decided to dig back through some pics and found a few that are good representatives of my previous states.  I actually started getting fit in September of 2011, I just couldn’t find a pic around then so I had to dig back to February.  I really started to work at things in January 2012 so these pics show the results of about a year’s worth of effort.

I hit a plateau recently, about 4 weeks at the same weight, and seeing these pics was really encouraging.  It’s easy to stay motivated when you’re seeing progress each week.  Now, now… I know the scale isn’t the only story when you’re losing weight and I can say that even though the scale wasn’t moving my clothes continue to get looser (more loose?) and I keeping punching new holes in my belt to make it smaller – so there was still progress.  But as anyone who’s lost weight or tried to lose weight knows, it’s easier know the scale isn’t the only way to see progress than it is to get your brain to be OK with that.

With the input of some great Fitocrats (check out Fitocracy.com if you have no idea what I’m talking about) I made a few adjustments and got off that plateau, but I’m sure I’ll hit one again.  Being able to look at things like this and see how far I’ve come is a huge help when I’m feeling stuck.  It reminds me that if I made it this far I can go the distance.

Island Ford Trail – #4 in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

Chattahoochee River at Island Ford

Chattahoochee River at Island Ford

ISLAND FORD TRAIL AT CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
Trailhead Coordinates: 33:987084 N , -84.325551 W
Distance hiked: 5.13 miles
Time to hike: 2:22:38
Click to download GPX file

This hike makes twelve that I’ve completed from the book 60 Hikes Within 60 miles of Atlanta, I’m making pretty good progress hiking through all the trails in the book.

Island Ford Trail is located within the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, a 48 mile area along the river that preserves historic and recreational spots.  It is part of the National Parks Service.  Island Ford was one of the two main fords used to cross the Chattahoochee River by settlers who preferred not to pay the expensive ferry fees to cross at other locations.  Due to water release from Buford Dam it is difficult today to tell the exact spot used for crossing the river.  The area was also the location of the summer family home of GA Superior Court Judge Samuel Hewlett, which is now used as the visitor’s center.

Brian is Crazy

This is why it’s dangerous to hand someone your camera and ask them to, “Just take some random pics.”

We started to feel the cooler temps the morning of the hike, when I arrived at the trail the temp was 38F.  No problem, I pulled my beanie on tight and put on my gloves.  Boo was ready to go and didn’t want to wait for me to get my gloves and hat on but we managed to get her leashed up and on our way before too long.  A few friends joined me for this one and we hiked a slightly different path than what is listed in the guidebook, it ended up at a little over 5 miles.  The trail is mostly easy terrain with a couple of decent, winding hill climbs.  There are a couple areas where the trail is a bit rugged and you need to watch your footing, trekking poles would be beneficial here.  The leaves were mostly fallen as well and covered rocks and roots, as I’m not a sure-footed as a mountain goat I slipped and tripped a bit, wear some boots with ankle support for this one.  In addition to some great views of the Chattahoochee River loaded with Canadian Geese the area is heavily forested with some awesome rock formations.  There’s a nice, little fishing pond located along the trail and right on the access road and this area of the river is also stocked with trout, next time I’ll have to bring a fishing pole.

We wrapped this up in just under 2 1/2 hours and the temps had climbed into the lower 50’s, with the constant movement I was plenty warm and even started to break a sweat.  To celebrate such a glorious hike on a beautiful day we headed up Roswell Road a bit to North River Tavern for some wings and beer, if you’re in the area it’s a great place for both.

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Pumpkin Pie Mousse (Weight Watchers Recipe)

A few years back I was attending Weight Watchers and one of the members there shared this recipe with us as a lighter dessert option to pumpkin pie for our Thanksgiving dinner.  Considering the recommended serving size of pumpkin pie has 323 calories (a Thanksgiving-sized slice with cool whip is likely over 500 calories) we blow it out of the water with this one at only 70 calories per (appox. 1/2 cup) serving.  I took this recipe to a friend’s house for Turkey Day and everyone loved it, however many of them used it to top their pie.  D’oh!

This recipe makes approximately 8, 1/2 cup servings and should do the job of curbing that desire for pumpkin pie after dinner.  If you try this recipe I hope you enjoy it and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Pumpkin Pie Mousse (Weight Watchers Recipe)
My take on the WW recipe, several variations can be found online.
Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 box vanilla instant pudding (sugar-free, fat-free)
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 can pumpkin (15 oz)
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or ¼ tsp each cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves)
  • 1 can Fat-free Reddi Whip (6.5 oz size) 
Pumpkin Mousse - Ingredients

Pumpkin Mousse – Ingredients

Preparation

This one is super easy.

  • Add the pudding and milk to a bowl and mix until slightly thickened
  • Add the pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice and blend until combined evenly.
  • Add the can of Reddi Whip and fold into pumpkin mix, don’t get too aggressive here.
  • Chill at least 20 minutes and serve

Tips, tricks and shortcuts

  • The original recipe calls for fat-free Cool Whip which is sweetened and whipped partially hydrogenated oil (trans fats) which I try to avoid.  Reddi Whip is a dairy product.
  • You can try different ratios of pumpkin, whipped topping and pudding to get the consistency you prefer.
  • You can try different spices or amounts to suit your preference.

BASIC NUTRITION INFO (per serving)

Calories: 70
Carbohydrates: 15 grams
Fat: 2 grams
Protein: 2 grams
Fiber: 2 grams

CLICK FOR A PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION OF THIS RECIPE

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Savory Stuffed Pumpkin (Recipe)

Chicken and Quinoa Stuffed Pumpkin

Chicken and Quinoa Stuffed Pumpkin

I decided to get creative the other night and this is what became of it.  I picked up a small pumpkin and decided to try making a savory stuffing to bake into it.  The stuffing is made up of chicken, quinoa, apples, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, onions and cranberries seasoned with the typical holiday spices of sage, thyme and nutmeg as well as salt, pepper and garlic.  Rosemary and marjoram would be good choices as well.  I used chicken in this version as that’s what I had on hand, however turkey would be a great choice and you could also use beef or lamb.  Next time I make this I think I’ll add some water chestnuts and celery.  You could also omit the pumpkin, add a bit more cream of mushroom soup and turn this into a casserole.

I love the holidays and all the awesome food that goes along with them, but we all know what that can do to a weight loss plan.  It’s nice to have some options for healthier choices that are still delicious and I think this fits the bill.  Check back soon for a great pumpkin mousse recipe that is only 68 calories per serving.

Savory Stuffed Pumpkin

Ingredients

2 pie pumpkins, approximately 2 – 2 ½ lbs each
12 oz chicken breast, cooked and chopped
– Could also used ground chicken or turkey
½ cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup water
1 small Fuji apple, diced
1 medium sweet potato, diced
2 Tbsp dried cranberries
½ medium onion, chopped
¾ cup mushrooms, sliced
½ can condensed cream of mushroom soup
Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic, sage, thyme, nutmeg
Spray olive oil

Quinoa and Chicken Stuffing for Pumpkin

Quinoa and Chicken Stuffing for Pumpkin

Preparation

Add water, quinoa, apples, cranberries and sweet potato to pan.  Add salt to taste and heat over medium heat.  Once boiling cover and lower heat and simmer for approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Quinoa should be moist with no standing water.  While the quinoa cooks prepare your pumpkins but cutting the tops off much the same way you would for a Jack-o-Lantern and clean the insides.

Next, heat saute pan over medium heat and coat with olive oil.  Add onion and cook until slightly translucent then add mushrooms and continue cooking over medium heat until done heat to low.  If necessary add additional oil to keep from sticking, but only in small amounts.

Add quinoa, chicken and to onions and mushrooms in pan and mix thoroughly.  Add cream of mushroom soup to give mixture a moist consistency but not wet, once cooked you’ll want your stuffing to be firm but moist.  Season to taste with your choice of salt, pepper, garlic, sage, thyme, nutmeg, rosemary and/or marjoram.

Bake pumpkins in preheated 350F oven for 35 – 45 minutes.  Test pumpkin doneness by piercing close to top with fork and flaking slightly.  Pumpkin should be tender and not too stringy.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes then cut in half and serve.

Tips, tricks and shortcuts

  • In my picture I’ve quartered the pumpkin for the photo however a serving is ½ pumpking and ¼ of stuffing mixture
  • I will likely add some water chestnuts and celery next time I make this.
  • This would be good with most ground meats.  Chicken, beef, lamb and of course, turkey.

BASIC NUTRITION INFO (per serving / 4 servings per recipe)

Calories: 381.7
Carbohydrates: 59.0 grams
Fat: 5.4 grams
Protein: 26.8 grams
Fiber: 9.3 grams

CLICK FOR PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION OF THIS RECIPE

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Night Hike at Olde Rope Mill Park – Woodstock, GA

Night hiking at Olde Rope Mill Park

Night hiking at Olde Rope Mill Park

I’m no expert but since I’m posting about night hiking I feel like I should mention that before you try a night hike you should take some extra precautions.  Make sure you know the trail you’re hiking the first time out, definitely go with a friend, make sure your headlamps/flashlights have extra batteries, make sure others know where you’re going… plus all the other preparations you’ll take for any other hike.  For more info on night hiking check out this article on About.com – How to Go on a Night Hike.

Olde Rope Mill Park
Trailhead coordinates: 34.131759, -84.523106
GPX File – Trail Maps

A busy schedule this weekend wasn’t going to keep me from getting a hike in.  I’ve wanted to try a night hike for a while and after some searching found out a park very close to me allows visitors until 11:00 PM.  Asked my buddy if he was game and we locked the plans down.  Olde Rope Mill Park is right in my backyard and I’ve hiked it many times before so it was a great choice for my first night hike.  They have a nice set of trails which are built mainly for mountain biking but do allow hiking.  The trail network here is part of the Greenprints Alliance plan for the city of Woodstock.  The plan lays out over 60 miles of interconnected trails with attached greenspace throughout the city, I have to say that Woodstock is doing a great job of making this a great place to live and play – the mayor and city council must have rocked at SimCity back in the day.

Boo running free at Olde Rope Mill Park

Boo running free at Olde Rope Mill Park

We hit the trail around 7:00 and the last visitors to the park were just leaving.  We got our gear on and headed out.  My dog (Boo) made out like a champ as I let her go off-leash since the trail was deserted, I attached a small LED light to her collar in case she wandered off but to be honest she behaves much better off leash than she does on one… damn rebellious critter.   We intended to hike the Explorer loops 1 & 2 but ended up looping back on 1 due to my less than stellar night navigation skills.  After hiking part of the Explorer trail we headed up the trail access road and found out it connects to a subdivision, we headed back and crossed over the river to the mill ruins, at this point we heard a Sasquatch in the woods, or maybe it was a ghost… maybe the ghost of a Sasquatch.  Boo didn’t seem concerned with the situation so we decided to carry on.  Upon approaching the ruins we realized the terrain was a bit unsafe for a night hike, especially since I was not very familiar with that part of the trail.  We also noticed on the way out that the signs say the area is closed at night, guess I see where my pup gets that rebellious nature.  We crossed back over the river and headed down the paved path that runs parallel to the Little River which is about a one mile loop.  Once all was said and done we’d hiked about 2 3/4 miles.

There’s a lot to do at Olde Rope Mill Park if you’re in the area.  They have the walking path, hiking/biking trails, fishing, picnic tables and the ruins of the old rope mill.  The Little River is very low right now but I’ve seen several people fishing it in the past.  I have friends that are into mountain biking and have ridden here many times, apparently it’s a pretty well-respected trail set in the mountain biking community.  With this trail being as close as it is this most certainly won’t be the last time I hike it.

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Homestead Trail at Red Top Mountain State Park – #18 in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

Fall Colors and Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain

Fall Colors and Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain

HOMESTEAD TRAIL AT RED TOP MOUNTAIN STATE PARK
Trailhead Coordinates:  34.147330, -84.706549
Click to download GPX file (My first time adding this so let me know if it doesn’t work!)

We had another gorgeous weekend here in Georgia and I definitely had to get a hike in.  I caught up with my buddy and we headed up to Red Top Mountain State Park to hike the yellow blazed Homestead Trail, this is #18 in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta.  For a longer hike you can also add the Sweet Gum Trail as they share a leg, the book actually shows the Sweet Gum Trail as part of this hike but it is a separate trail.  The park is on the banks of Lake Allatoona and it’s about 42 miles from the center of Atlanta (Junction of 75/85/20) via I-75.   If you are looking for a weekend getaway there is a lodge, cottages, tennis courts, mini golf, camping, boating and more available at the park.

After grabbing some BBQ for lunch we headed North and arrived at the trail around 2:30 PM.  According to the book the trail is easy however both of us felt that “moderate” is probably more appropriate.  Although the trail winds around the mountain it’s laid out so none of the uphill climbs are too aggressive but still offer a little boost to hear rate.  Looking at the elevation chart in the book it’s hard to get a good idea of the actual slopes as the scale goes from 0 – 3600 but is rather small, even a rise of a couple hundred feet looks very small.  I’ve attached my GPS map in the slideshow that will give a better idea of the elevation change.

Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain

Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain

I really enjoyed this hike, seems like I say that every time I go out but I guess that’s a good thing as each trail has something to offer that I enjoy.  As mentioned, the trail was not overly difficult but it did offer a bit of a workout.  It’s a lollipop trail and the initial leg of the trail (the ‘stick’) is very easy terrain.  After crossing over Lodge Road you hit the more challenging terrain and wind along the lake.  There are some great views of the lake through the trees as well as a couple of areas where you can get along the banks.  We found one spot where a couple had set up hammocks along the lake and were reading as their dog kept watch, nice way to relax.  Although temps were fairly cool we did warm up a bit from earlier in the week and it made for perfect weather.  The trees are at the point where they are very colorful but half the leaves are on the ground and give that awesome crunch as you hike through.  My friend commented that some areas looked like shredded wrapping paper all over the floor on Christmas morning.

The hike took us about 2 1/2 hours to complete and we hiked a total of 5.74 miles.  We ended the day by heading back to my house for cigars and drinks.  With a fire crackling in the fire pit we hung out on the patio until I got too dru…. I mean until we were all tired and needed to get some rest.  All in all it was a great Saturday.

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