Trail Day! Wild Horses and Spring Life

Trail Day with Wild Horses Spring Adventures

Yesterday J and I decided to bike the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail (and by “J and I decided” I mean I dragged him along). The trail is about 16 miles and one of the only Florida bike trails I’ve been on with actual hills. It did nothing to help my calf strain, but was still worth it. We entered through the Boulware Springs Park entrance and rode toward Hawthorne (I think). The older gentlemen at the beginning of the trail told us which way we should go to head near the path I wanted.

My real goal yesterday was to see alligators. There’s a section of the trail that’s right next to a large body of water where gators sunbathe and swim just a couple feet from the path. We didn’t realize you couldn’t take your bikes along the path, so we’ll just have to go again with a bike lock next time. Oh, darn! 😉 I’ve seen photos of park visitors getting up-close and personal with boars, bison, and more. The horses we saw were a nice compensation, but next time my goal is at least an alligator.

All that aside, the trail is beautiful! The trees are starting to bloom again and the weather is perfect. We shared the trail with a ton of bikers, walkers and joggers out to capitalize on the nice weather while it lasts.  If you’re near Gainesville, this is a must-visit location. We drove about an hour and a half to get there and it didn’t disappoint! The ride was so nice that it It makes me want to do the MS Cycle to the Shore again this year, so I can see more of Florida from my bike seat. It’s in October, so maybe I’ll be cleared by PT to do it.  Here’s hoping!

Here’s some of the photos we took on the trail. You can click on the photos below to learn more.

 

 

MY BIG QUESTION FOR YOU IS:
What adventures did you take this weekend?

Till next time!

April @ fitandfancylife Signature

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Why Americans Still Don’t Eat Fruits And Veggies (A Huffington Post Response)

Why Americans Still Don't Eat Fruits And Vegetables

If you haven’t seen the Huffington Post’s article Eating Enough Fruits And Veggies Isn’t Nearly As Expensive As You Think, then jump over and feel free to read it. It’s actually an interesting and well written piece. (I’d expect nothing less from the HP!) To summarize the article though, the author points out that a new paper from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service found that “the average person eating 2,000 calories a day could satisfy the federal dietary guidelines’ fruit and vegetable recommendations for no more than $2.60 a day (based on 2013 data).”

$2.60 a day! Awesome, right? Facebook readers didn’t seem to think so.

The [American] Public’s View On Affordable Healthy Eating

After reading the article, I scrolled down to see if the rest of the readers were as happy as I was to see researchers opening advocating that eating healthy isn’t just for the elite. I mean, this is what we were all begging for, isn’t it? I was very surprised that almost all the comments I was reading [at the time] were negative. Sure, I knew there’d be some nay-sayers, but almost everyone?

The biggest complaint people seemed to have with the data was that they didn’t see these affordable prices where they live. Commenters quickly took to social media to contradict the paper’s findings by quoting produce prices at their local grocery stores. Readers blamed the price differences on everything from living in the north to white privilege to less advantaged communities living in “food deserts”.

The general public still seems to think that eating healthy is too expensive and unattainable, despite the name of the article or the many other articles, videos, and studies which say differently.

Why The Disconnect?

Everyone has their own reasons why they think healthy living is socially unattainable, but it’s been my observation that there’s three main reasons that everything boils down to – none of which are money driven. The reasons why we’re not eating healthier food choices are that the public has been fed too much contradicting information; their upbringings have shaped who they are; and that they’re stubborn.

Information Overload

If asked, anyone with Internet access could pull up an article that says eating meat and dairy products are good for you, while simultaneously producing an article that says those foods are killing you. (Don’t even get me started on the debate over protein!) The meat and dairy industries have spent billions of dollars on research and marketing to keep people purchasing their products. Just turn on the TV and you’ll see ad after ad for sugary, meaty, creamy foods. Commercials were created for this kind of thing, after all.

And where does that leave the consumer? It’s these contradictions that have left people frustrated and unsure of what to believe. Are fruits and vegetables the key to a long and healthy life or does it lie in protein-rich meats and dairy? It’s easy to become overwhelmed. You are left no choice but to choose which side you’re going to believe and hope you’re right for yourself and your family.

We Are What We’re Taught To Eat

I’ll be the first to admit that my eating habits haven’t changed much from my pre-teen self. My favorite food is still spaghetti, I still don’t like brussels sprouts, and I am a chocolate fiend. Even with the small changes in my diet due to age and new information, I can trace my food habits back to childhood. Even my choice to cut meat and dairy from my diet wasn’t a huge surprise to my family, since I was never fond of them to begin with. (Except the protein, the protein is always a fear for people.)

According to Dr. Michael Miedema, a preventive cardiologist at Minneapolis Heart Institute, and TIME – I’m the norm. Dr. Miedema and his team did a study of 2,500 men and women in 1985 and again in 2005. He’s quoted as saying that “the data highlight how important it is to start healthy eating habits early—not only because they tend to stick around through adulthood, but also because they can actually make a difference in the state of your heart.”

Let me draw attention to that middle part again, in case you missed it. Your childhood eating habits tend to stick around through adulthood. If you think about your own eating habits, how many of you have a favorite family recipe that you still make? People are taught early in life what is healthy to eat, whether at home or at school, and then again what is acceptable to eat based on how they’re raised. It’s the reason why people know an apple is a healthy snack, but grab the same brand of chips their parents bought them as children instead. It’s a learned habit that’s almost entirely environmental and is most certainly going to determine your health for the rest of your life.

I Do What I Want

The third, and probably the strongest, factor as to why people are stuck on thinking fruits and vegetables are beyond their fiscal reach is the fact that we, as a species, are stubborn as hell. If we think we’re right, then we often don’t care how much evidence we’re shown that contradicts us. Think of healthy eating as politics. How many adults, who identify themselves as having similar beliefs as a particular political party, would ever change parties if a study comes out that says the opposing party is proven to be the best for governing society? Not very many.

A lot of people want to blame external factors for the reason why they don’t eat more fruits and vegetables, like money or availability, but their will power is more of a contributing factor than any other excuse.

Grocery stores across the country run sales that make produce just as cheap, if not cheaper, than many of the products down the junk food aisle. Is there a spike in produce and a noticeable decline in junk food those weeks? No. Why are the healthy choices not flying off the shelves? The average person doesn’t want to buy them.

We can blame the prices, blame the research, and blame our zip code for the reasons why we aren’t eating more fruits and vegetables but we are ultimately responsible for ourselves. We’re a resilient and highly adaptable species. If we really wanted to purchase fruits and vegetables over meat and dairy, we would! Critics, background, and job be damned, we would make that happen for ourselves. And in 2016, it’s really disheartening to see that as a society, we haven’t made that choice yet.

 


Side note: I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything! So many things have changed, yet it feels like no time has passed at all. One of my goals for 2016 is to become more consistent with posting to Fit & Fancy Life, and what better way than to start with an article about affording a  fit and fancy lifestyle? I can’t wait to share more with you! Let me know in the comments what you think about this article and the comments it’s received.

April @ fitandfancylife Signature

Celebrities Going Vegan?: How vegans feel about Beyoncé going vegan

 

In case you’ve been living under a rock, or joined the Internet today, Beyoncé announced she’s gone vegan. In a pre-filmed clip aired on Good Morning America she announced the benefits a vegan “diet” has done for her body and a wish to share it with the world (via her new business ventures and co-authored book).

While Beyoncé’s news is a happy one for animals everywhere, I wonder whether her new announcement should be welcomed by the rest of the vegan community or not. Don’t start blasting me yet! I don’t hate Beyoncé or any other celebrity that’s chosen to adopt a plant-based lifestyle. I think it’s great, but the pros and cons of a person of such social power joining any movement, specifically ours, could mean great or terrible things.

The Pros: Reach, Reason, and Riches

There’s no denying the social influence of a woman like Beyoncé. She, and any celebrity that goes full-veggie, has the possibility to reach a lot more people than the average person. They are watched so closely by the rest of the world that almost anything they do goes viral. Women yearn to look and act like their favorite celebrities. Women copy makeup styles, fashion trends, and even relationship advice from celebrities, so it’s safe to assume that diet and exercise advice will also be mimicked. The fact that Queen Bey touts a vegan lifestyle and may just be the jump-start people need. After all, it’s got to be amazing if she does it.

Beyoncé went fully vegan because it was the easiest way for her to lose weight and keep it off. She’s not alone! Many celebrities have chosen to adopt a plant-based lifestyle for weight and beauty reasons. This is huge for veganism, because it allows the idea of a meat- and dairy-free lifestyle to reach people who aren’t interested in the ethical incentives of veganism. As much as the rest of us would love for everyone to care about the animals and the environment, not everyone is going to change their lifestyle and long-ingrained eating habits for those reasons. Some people are going to be more tempted to try something that’s going to make them as attractive as their favorite singers and actors (not that other vegans aren’t hot – they are). A person’s choice to adopt a vegan lifestyle, no matter what their motivation or style of eating, is something to be celebrated.

Along with their social power, celebrities also have the monetary power to create businesses, write books, and create other entrepreneurial ventures to make veganism attractive and available for everyone. The average vegan can’t just decide to create their own mail-order food service to help those struggling with meal planning and expect others to jump all over it. Something like that takes money, time, and great marketing in order to flourish. (This is also where a little social influence helps.)

The Cons: Fads, Fortune, and Failure

Although it can be a pro, celebrities going full-veggie as a diet, not lifestyle, can turn veganism into another fad diet. Veganism is a lifestyle. It’s a cruelty-free way of living where no animals, or animal by-products, are consumed, worn, or used. It is not a fad diet to get unwanted body weight off quickly. When people treat it like a fad diet they often fall back into their old routines. Treating it like a fad diet invites “cheat days,” the continued use of leather and fur, or the use of veganism as a catalyst for weight loss, which will be abandoned the moment the desired results are obtained. These don’t help anyone. Animal lives will still be in jeopardy and people who don’t get their weight loss results will fall right back into their old eating habits with a new grudge against veganism for not working. It’s not meant to work for anything other than the safety, and welfare of animals. Our health is a bonus, not a selling point.

With so many celebrities now turning to veganism, it’d be nice if they didn’t always try to capitalize on the movement. Celebrities using veganism to make more money or gain more publicity seems a bit shady. We get it, they stopped eating meat and dairy and now look even hotter. Do they also need to make money on it? Can’t they just spread the word, donate their money to vegan causes, or support vegan businesses (which ultimately makes more people want to go there too) without having to get some of the profits themselves? If they do choose to create their own businesses, where does that money go? Does it get split between the business and animal charities or does it go into their already bulging pockets?

Besides the money and the debasement of veganism into a fad diet, there is still one con that hurts the movement far worse – failure. The media loves celebrity failure. Relationship, career, and weight failures seem to be what the media and Internet live for. When celebrities go vegan and give it up to eat meat again, the media jumps all over it. (Just look at Bill Clinton’s vegan failure, or even this average guy’s tofu disaster.) If they didn’t like eating vegan, why should anyone else? (Stupid, right?) The sad reality is that society looks up to celebrities, like Beyoncé, as a model to live by and strive for. Veganism has an elitist stigma and can be hard for people to imagine themselves following it long-term after the first few (often expensive) trips to the grocery store. It can be overwhelming for people to get use to giving up animal products, cooking, packing food in advance, finding new recipes, and reading labels for ingredients. When their role model struggles with veganism and fails, it makes it ok for them to give it up too.

I think celebrities can be great allies or great foes in the vegan movement. I’d like to think they will help more people get healthy and save more animals’ lives in the process, but I’m also skeptical. Time will tell, and for right now I’m just glad we’re getting a little media attention. Isn’t that at the very least a step in a positive direction?

Food Porn Friday: Finger Foods For The Win!

Food Porn Friday fitandfancylife.com vegan vegetarian recipes

 

 

Food Porn Friday. Finger Food Friday. Finally it’s Friday….day.

I’ve been pretty lazy as far as cooking going this week. Between the pups, the gym, and family being in town there’s been several nights of leftovers and fast meals. So in keeping with the lazy hazy week I’m featuring finger food for today’s Food Porn Friday. Who doesn’t love finger food? The fact that it’s National Donut Day only confirms the idea that finger foods are the best! The chance to be uncivilized in social situations and eat portions based on holes, sticks of this and that, or number of poppers? Yes, please!

 

Southwestern Egg Rolls
Southwestern-Egg-Rolls-9b
These spicy, veggie-filled sticks are amazing. They’re safe for vegetarians and can be adapted for vegans by using rice paper wrappers. I added more salsa than the recipe called for, but I do that for everything that calls for salsa. The hotter the better! Check out the recipe here.

 

 

Crockpot Black Beans and Rice
Crockpot Black Beans and Rice 1
In keeping with the spicy trend, this concoction is a versatile love of mine. The mixture can be used as a dip for chips or as the filling for burritos. Just throw everything into your crockpot or pressure cooker, walk away, and return to serve up and eat. It really is that easy. Check out the recipe here.

 

Carrots in a Blanket
Carrots in a blanket
Yes, the name is similar to its “Pigs in a blanket” cousin. The major difference, the carrots, are just a huge improvement. In theory you could use anything to fill these babies (sweet potato, potato, asparagus), but the carrots provide for a sweet and “buttery” flavor to satisfy your taste buds. While Sandra’s recipe is great, I opted not to use oil. I found that if you own a high quality, non-stick pan there’s no need for oil. The carrots were able to “fry” in what remained of their own juices and turned out just fine. Try Carrots in a Blanket at your next party by getting the recipe here.

 

Skinny Baked Vegetarian Egg Rolls with Peanut Sauce
vegetarian-eggrolls-e1427300628458
My boyfriend loves these. It’s hard to tell if he loves the fact that he gets egg rolls without having to go pick them up from a restaurant or if it’s because he gets an excuse to eat more peanut butter. Regardless, it’s a hit in my house. This is the most complicated recipe today, but worth it. The egg rolls are deceivingly filling and you will more than likely have left-overs for a few days. You’re welcome. Catch the recipe here.


That’s it! Hope you guys enjoy these finger-licking recipes. How do these finger foods stack up with your favorites? Let me know your favorite in the comments below.

The art of picking yourself back up and moving forward

Everyone’s been there at least once in their lives. You’ve had the phone call that nightmares are based on, hit the point in your life where your problems have piled so high you can’t see past them, or experienced a disappointment in life so great it’s as if your world is crumbling down around you. These horrible  moments in life are unavoidable, inevitable, and soul crushing. They swoop in, often unexpected, and like a tornado they leave a mess of destruction and devastation in their wake. And as anyone who’s experienced these moments knows, it can be one of the hardest things to do to pick yourself up and keep going.

I get a piece of news like this recently. I surprised even myself at how powerfully the news hit me. Sure, I’ve had bad news before, but this was the worst. This was it. My world was over and it felt like someone sucked the life right out of me.

In the aftershock I found myself sitting on my couch, clutching my knees to my chest for any kind grip on reality I could muster, and crying uncontrollably. I sat there drowning in my emotions for so long that my dogs gave up trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I was so heartbroken that I couldn’t see what kind of future was left for me. It sucked.

I tried to hide it at first. I’m a really private person, which is why some people I know were surprised I started a personal blog at all. I don’t even post very personal things on my Facebook! (Cute animal videos and pictures of my dogs are about as personal as my Facebook gets.)

But when it came down to it, when I was slapped in the face with such a heart wrenching life-plan changer, I did what any reasonably private woman does. I said “I’m fine” and kept going. I functioned like a perfectly rational looking human for the next hour. I walked my dogs, welcomed my boyfriend home, and went to the kitchen to start dinner.

Que the second wave.

I don’t know how long I sat there. I don’t know how I went from reaching out to open the refrigerator door to sitting on the wood floor of the kitchen, back painfully pressed against the refrigerator in the same knee-to-chest position I pretended I wasn’t in earlier, crying. That’s where my boyfriend found me. And it wasn’t until he came over, asked me why I was on the floor, peeked down to see tears streaming down my face (again) that I even realized I was there. The past few hours were a dream-like blur.

We sat there for a while, me sitting on the floor and Jonathan sitting across from me quietly. When he asked me if I wanted to talk about it, and all I could do was shake my head so as not to let the sobs threatening to break free come forth, I realized how not “fine” I really was. Even his small jokes weren’t enough to pick me up.

It took several more minutes and understanding reassurances from my wonderful boyfriend before I could get up and get moving. It took several more weeks before I could consider myself fully recovered from the initial shock, disappointment, and aftereffects of that event.

So in the past month I have been, getting sick from anxiety, accepting what I could not change, and dealing with getting better and moving forward in life. And that’s where I am right now. I’m fully ready to pick up the pen keyboard again and get to sharing with the rest of the world.

I think what really helped me pick myself back up was my rock of a boyfriend and the knowledge that when you feel like the rest of the world just crumbled around your feet – it hasn’t. If you just take one deep breath, and walk outside you’ll see the rest of the world is carrying on and, since you’re still apart of the world, you will carry on too. Time heals everything and the open wound that is crushing you today will get better with time as long as you allow it to.

So I’m back to kicking butt, living life, and enjoying the little things. Welcome to the next chapter of my journey.

April @ fitandfancylife Signature