I know this is an odd post for a food blog, avoiding food (not all food, just the triggers that sometimes make us eat the wrong things, or eat when we’re not really hungry). I’m trying to lose a few pounds, and many of you responded with a wish to do the same , so I figured we could do it together. I usually become a virtual recluse when I want to lose weight. Why?

Getting my flap on
Hanging out in restaurants smelling all the yummy food I can’t eat makes me grumpy, and dinner parties can be even worse since you don’t have a choice. Movies make me crave popcorn, which is fine air popped – but not greasy cinema style, so that’s about three quarters of my normal social life gone in one fail swoop. Sitting home watching television and the endless commercials that remind me of food every five minutes, is not a great plan either, so I’ve been getting out of my rut, and the house this week.
Out dancing in Paris with Giovanna in the 80’s

Still out dancing with Giovanna 25 years later

Saturday was girls night out again. We skipped dinner this time (don’t get your knickers in a twist – I don’t condone skipping meals, I had a bowl of soup before we went)…
Birds of Play: Jewels, Gina, Giovanna, and Nasra
Gina dancing with a guy we dubbed Austin Powers


… and went straight to diet cokes and dancing at Club 1912 in the Beverly Hills Hotel. DjLo happens to be badassy Lo – so adept at spinning discs, that even I couldn’t sit still. What broken ankle?
Then it was off to the spa for complete pampering from head to toe with a treatment that lives up to it’s name, Pure Bliss. Steam and sauna, soaking in the baths, body scrub, massage, facial, and tingling peppermint hair wash eased any swelling I might have had from dancing. Not an ounce of stress left anywhere in my body. Squeaky clean and polished as soft as a baby’s bottom, I was too relaxed to even manage a smile, although I certainly was inside.
Spa time Jewels style
Tuesday was movie night – luckily my handsome date was enough distraction to stay out of the goodies. A girl has to earn a living so Monday and Wednesday were spent cooking for a clients (see lemon-artichoke pesto chicken and barley salad recipe below), and today is “play in the clay day” with my potter friend preparing for her next big exhibition.
Pretty funny really to see the crude measuring bowls I squeeze together while she effortlessly creates masterpieces destined for some gallery or museum. The clay feels so therapeutic squishing between my fingers that I don’t care how rudimentary it looks.
Clubbing: Julie Anne, Lorenza, Gina, Giovanna, and Nasra

I’m also excited about all of the screenings coming up. They’re a safe zone since no food or drink is allowed. Lord knows I lurve my movies! Once the foot is completely healed and I’m fighting fit again it will be back to Bollywood dance class, and renting bikes for a ride along Venice beach. It helps to get out, get active, and not think about food. What non-food related socializing do you do to keep your fingers out of the cookie jar?

Lemon- Artichoke Pesto Chicken & Barley Salad

None of us want to be slaves to hot kitchens in the summertime, so here is an easy make-ahead meal to have on the ready for when the temperature spikes. It tastes like summer with each flavorful burst and I love the contrasting textures. Decadent, yet healthy all the way, so indulge!

Servings: 4

  • 1 cup fresh basil, packed
  • 2 14 ounce cans of quartered artichoke hearts, drained and divided
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated divided
  • 1/4 cup tablespoons pine nuts, toasted and divided
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest
  • 2 1/4 cups water, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 8 ounces of cooked chicken breast, skin removed and chopped
  • 3 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

1). Cook 1 cup of barley in 2 cups of boiling water according to package instructions.
2). While barley is cooking, make artichoke pesto sauce. Add basil, 1/2 of the drained artichokes, 1/4 cup of Parmesan, 3 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, remaining 1/4 cup water, and extra-virgin olive oil to a food processor. Process until smooth, seasoning to taste and adjusting consistency as desired with additional water or oil.
3). Drain cooked barley well and add back to pan off heat. Quickly add 1/2 cup of the lemon Artichoke pesto (refrigerating or freezing any remaining for another use), chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and remaining artichokes, Parmesan and pine nuts. Stir well and serve warm, or cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serving Suggestions: Great served atop of a bed of peppery arugula or spinach tossed lightly in balsamic dressing, or with any steamed, roasted, or grilled green vegetable of your choice.

Vegetarian Variation: Add rinsed and drained chickpeas in place of the chicken for a delicious vegetarian alternative.
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  • July 29, 2010
    7:54 am

    I find in summer I just don't have my normal appetite but that didn't stop me when we were on holiday in Amsterdam last week. So… time to get back to a better routine of light pasta dishes. Since it's just my husband and myself I will fire up the grill and cook two or three meals in advance to eat later in the week when we're too busy to cook a decent meal. This also let's us avoid eating anything processed. I walk at least an hour every day. I have two active dogs that demand their 30 minute walk every morning. I love being up very early during the summer. On the weekends we like to get out to National Trust Properties and take a lot of photos. This usually includes lots of walking. I'll never be thin, but by golly I'm fit! 🙂 ~April

  • July 29, 2010
    10:04 am

    What a great dish! It's been so warm here lately, so this will be perfect for an easy dinner this weekend.As for food-free socializing? Hanging out with my best friend seems to work. We've been friends since we were babies, so with 39 years of history, we're usually talking so much we just pick at our food! My husband and I also have a motorcycle, so long rides enjoying the scenery and the wind in our hair are definitely food-free. You can't eat on the back of a Harley, it's just not possible. I tried once. Trust me on this–not possible!Chelle Cook

  • July 29, 2010
    12:47 pm

    Reading this blog makes me feel guilty as I just came home from a fine dining experience at a Melbourne (oz) restaurant named The Press Club. Modern Greek cuisine which was out of this world. Very inventive and surprises which "pop" in your mouth. The food was extremely artistic, very picasso like as one waiter put it. It's definately a place which Jewels you will love if you ever come to OZ. So as I try and digest all I have eaten tonight, I will definately TRY and take it easy for a while. Simple light meals are definately what I need to loose that extra pound or two I can't seem to shake off.I love taking long walks, so I think I may have to get back into that since I have not done it for a while (too busy with my little Mia). I love riding my bike along the beach too, however as it is winter here in OZ I will have to wait until spring for that to happen.Jewels it's lovely how you still see Giovanna and it amazes me how you both are still as youthful today as you were 25yrs ago. Great, great genes indeed! Giovanna is gorgeous. You gals must have had a roaring time recently. As we would say in OZ…good on you… or should I say Good On YA! Aussie Mum 🙂

  • July 29, 2010
    2:09 pm

    Well I don't have a social life so its not a problem for me 🙂 That sounds awful but as my best friend lives 200 miles away its rare I go out locally (i haven't any friends around where I live, due to my illness). However when I do go to London and see friends we are pretty good. We eat breakfast before we leave and maybe have a coffee mid morning, or sometimes we will go up to Knightsbridge and eat something scrummy in Patisserie Valerie and not eat until we get home. I'm also lucky that if we do go to the cinema I don't eat the popcorn as I like mine sweet and not salty or flavoured. I go for healthy eating options but every year my friend, god bless her, we go to the USA (Los Angeles this year) and my weight piles on again – The Cheesecake Factory – oh that's fatal, so I'll lose a bit more before I go away and then enjoy those scrummy cakes

  • July 29, 2010
    3:55 pm

    ’ve been involved in a nice exchange with my “friends”, recently, on the matter. There seems to be no other choice to go out than visit a new restaurant, nowadays, hereQuite boring.Everytime I point that out to my friends, they look at me as to say-“hey, what’s wrong. I do like eat/drink, I don’t get bored. Why are you so picky?”It’s a topic for me, as I’ve been suffering from eating disorders for many years,a nd they are aware of my weakness..you know, once you got there you can sink deep or turn up to life, but something still remains and you have to keep it “in control”. Besides, I’m almost vegan.So the foodie thing is quite an issue…at least, they made it so.When out on a diner or diner party, I usually can easily refrain ‘cause I’m not really interested in eating what others do ( meat, mostly ), and when I am hungry I just choose what I like, in places I like, mostly healthy things ( which doesn’t mean tasteless.. )Otherwise, I do as you do. Have something good for me at home, before leaving.It’s not that much of a problem for me, but it is for who’s at my table.Maybe it’s the Italian culture..but they look at you as a poor thing and feel embarrassed.It’s hard to convince them I’m out for the company, not the food.So, I also offer a solution, like: “ok I’ll taste your food, you taste mine”..but guess what happens?I result as the venturous, the others don’t..I believe the ways you found ( go dancing, watching movies, staying with friends ) is the best way to skip a food-temptation.And sport too.As I believe, if you find the right people, you just can feel comfy doing whatever you do, and have fun, easily, without feeling judged as I often feel with my surroundings..Hope to be lucky soon.. Nicoletta Appodia

  • July 29, 2010
    3:56 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this. My days are spent in an office where people are constantly putting out snacks (none that are remotely healthy) and I've been struggling with weight since the birth of my daughter. 4 and a half years ago! Plus having a 22 year old who can eat everything and not gain an ounce, an 8 and 5 and 4 year old that obviously need their cookies and ice cream in the house, it's HARD. You're very inspiring. I do need some support here. And as I've mentioned to you before, I do have some pics of you that I use as motivation to stay on track so eventually I'll hopefully get to where you are.Jodi Silverman Zulueta

  • July 29, 2010
    3:57 pm

    I need to lose about 50 pounds so I'll be in proportion next year when I have breast reconstruction done coupled with reduction and lift. The hardest part is motivation, plus I'm a very picky eater (not into veggies except the starchy ones) and it would be very difficult for me to find a diet plan to stick to.Lara Coker Hayes

  • July 29, 2010
    3:58 pm

    Nicoletta I so feel for you! I think you answered your own dilemma though – maybe you need to see your friends less often, and find some new friends that are interested in the things you DO want to do.They are out there.Jodi – you are stronger than I am. It would drive me crazy to sit and look at a cupcake all day, and not be able to eat at least one! Maybe you can offer to bring the snacks and find healthier stuff to have around. BTW, why are grown-ups needing snacks out all day to work anyhow?Lara – I'm working on a post about learning to like vegetables and recipes that make them so much more desirable. Hopefully that will help IF I can get you to keep an open mind.

  • July 29, 2010
    4:01 pm

    PS. Jodi – the lemon-artichoke pesto chicken and barley salad in the blog post can easily be taken to work for lunch or a snack – it can be eaten room temperature (but not left out more than a couple hours), or heated in the microwave -assuming the office has one.

  • July 29, 2010
    4:19 pm

    Hey Julie, good times, miss you already !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nasra and me are in NYC starting from tomorrow for about a week, wish you were there too babes! xoxoGina Heisser

  • July 29, 2010
    4:20 pm

    Hopefully we will be there the same time in September. In the meantime give Nasra and Nile hugs from me!

  • July 29, 2010
    4:26 pm

    very Monday I stock the mini-frige in my office with healthy foods. Hippie instant oatmeal, fruit, fat free cottage cheese, Wasa crackers and organic sliced turkey, mineral waters, green tea etc. If I know I can go to the back room and grab something when I'm hungry I'm okay. If I have no healthy food available, I obsess about not having anything good to eat and then I make a quick/bad choice. Excersize is key. Not only because it changes your body, but after I've suffered like that I'm way less inclined to ruin it by eating the wrong foods! :)Kim Phillips Cuccia

  • July 29, 2010
    4:27 pm

    And I already put the chicken pesto artichoke salad recipe, so I am on a mission. Thank you for making healthy food so delicious!Jodi Silverman Zulueta

  • July 29, 2010
    4:28 pm

    Great thinking Kim – see we can all support and find solutions together!

  • July 29, 2010
    5:18 pm

    Yeah, opening my mind to trying new things will be the biggest trick. LOL Can't wait to see what you come up wth!Lara Coker Hayes

  • July 29, 2010
    7:19 pm

    I am cutting back on TV. In my life Food and TV are a dysfunctional married couple in desperate need of an intervention. One minute Marie Osmond is selling a bad tasting diet and the next Barry White is singing sexy over chocolate. Jewels I can relate to the movie popcorn issue. Jeez what else is a girl to do when watching Leo in the movie Inception? Calories be damned give this girl some popcorn!Melinda McCoy LaBarge

  • July 29, 2010
    7:25 pm

    Hey Melinda – I bought this cool microwave air popper at Target. I'll either sprinkle Parmesan on top, a seasoning salt, or a little butter flavored spray, and it satisfies the popcorn urge without all the fat. You do have to smuggle it into the theater in your handbag (they won't like you not buying it from them – they make a killing on popcorn). Worth giving it a try – it does take a little getting used to, but now the real thing tastes like pure grease to me.

  • July 30, 2010
    12:13 am

    gorgeous dancers and great cook… and would like to know 25 years later what music do you dance with? Still DD? or more modern techno music?Manuela Salvade

  • July 30, 2010
    12:14 am

    hahaha……hahaha….SO Im not the only one that smuggles snacks in the theatre using her ''largest'' handbag.lmao…jewels you crack me up,lmao..I like black liqourish which is fat free but I refuse to pay 5-6 dollars for ten sticks of it,lol buy it at target for a dollar and smuggle it inMariah Monesmith-Kreider

  • July 30, 2010
    2:11 am

    After I read your post…I was realizing that I didn't have too many social activities that don't involve food. LOL That realization may aid me in taking off these pounds, eh? Even when we go to the park with the kids, it usually morphs into a picnic, but at least we usually get some walking and tennis in first.the artichoke pesto looks amazing. I love all kinds of pesto so I'm going to have to try that.

  • July 30, 2010
    4:18 am

    Gosh, that looks good!Morgan Raymond

  • July 30, 2010
    4:39 pm

    For me, I don't know if it's finding non-food social activities, but finding friends who share your interest in eating healthier no matter their waistline. I've noticed, as an obese woman who is working on that (down another pound this week), that it's worse to hang with my skinny friends because they can eat junky food and it doesn't show up on their hips so they think they are okay…and their favorite place to hang is at the Cheesecake Factory. I love them, but I know I gain weight around them.Instead, I have been spending more time with people who also want to lose weight and who are encouraging me in this endeavor, even if we do eat together sometimes while out and about. We just went to a free outdoor concert and brought a bag of apples to split among us.

  • July 30, 2010
    4:39 pm

    Summer is so hard with all the festivals in Ohio. You can't help but eat poorly when you smell all the greasy food. Of course then there's the ice cream. I wish I could think of something social without food but with 2 small kids it seems impossible.Regina

  • July 30, 2010
    6:23 pm

    Let's see you resist the popcorn at the Arc Light! Hope you are doing well, I miss hanging out with you! Need to get together soon!Laura Dodd-Hodges

  • July 30, 2010
    6:30 pm

    Hey Fat Girl (I hate calling you that, because you are soon to be skinny girl the rate you're going) I totally agree. I think we actually have family and friends that are subconsciously invested in our staying larger, so it is a good idea to choose your companionship wisely when trying to lose weight. You can do picnics Regina – just make sure you pack healthy food, and try to center activities (especially with kids) around physical activities. Fairs are a huge danger zone to any diet.Ha! I already did last Tuesday Laura. xo

  • July 30, 2010
    7:39 pm

    Jewels, LOL, yes, well, the blogging pseudonym "the fat girl" (because my mom the health club owner would flip if she read my blog) came from the fact that I used to be very fit, very active, and then became very much in denial of my weight …until the day when I had to get a physical after letting my life insurance lapse. They denied me because of "morbid obesity" and I was pretty offended because up til then, I think I looked in the mirror and still saw my sportly 24 year old self looking back…"oh I need to lose a few pounds" I'd think, but I didn't realize it had gotten that out of hand…a few illnesses, several pregnancies, 2 surgeries, and voila…122 pounds over. That day I looked in the mirror and saw me as what I really do look like. Yowsa.I think I spent too much time in stretchy pants after the birth of my last kid, and never noticed the weight gain…then I was so horrified I just ignored it for a while and pretended not to notice, because you really do need some long term stamina to lose 100 odd pounds, especially when my hubs is always bringing home fatty foods and forgetting that I'm working on my weight. He is a former pro athlete who is also in denial (still) about his weight situation.I'll eventually get to change it to the "formerly fat girl". I am so excited to finally be light enough to use a treadmill (did you know there's a weight limit on those? *sigh*). Now it's going to really start peeling off. :DMari (the fat girl)

  • July 30, 2010
    9:28 pm

    I'm making this for dinner tonight. I'm salivating from the picture. Love your blog!

  • July 30, 2010
    11:21 pm

    Good for you Mari……it's wonderful to hear that you are trying your very best. This is one Aussie who will be cheering you on via cyberland. It's a brilliant idea Jewels that have engaged everyone in cyberland to join you in shedding those pounds with lovely light fresh meals. If only everyone else out there would share the same. Aussie Mum