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.

The Sweetwater Overlook is a great stop on the trail. The single bench overlooks a large expanse of the Paynes Prairie Preserve.

The Sweetwater Overlook is a great stop on the trail. The single bench overlooks a large expanse of the Paynes Prairie Preserve.

We saw wild horses. They just schmoozed for a while.

We saw wild horses. They just schmoozed for a while.

Another stop on the trail was the Alachua Overlook. The small boardwalk-like overhang looks out across the wetlands. Boars, donkeys, horses, and more can usually be found roaming the area.

Another stop on the trail was the Alachua Overlook. The small boardwalk-like overhang looks out across the wetlands. Boars, donkeys, horses, and more can usually be found roaming the area.

More wetlands.

More wetlands.

It was just too pretty not to take pictures!

It was just too pretty not to take pictures!

The trees on either side of the trail are covered in these caterpillar nests. This nest was "hatching" as we passed by.

The trees on either side of the trail are covered in these caterpillar nests. This nest was “hatching” as we passed by.

There were so many caterpillars that came out.

There were so many caterpillars that came out.

You can see some of the dead area still.

You can see some of the dead area still.


The entrance to the park had done a controlled burn at some point and new life was starting to come out with the Spring weather.

The entrance to the park had done a controlled burn at some point and new life was starting to come out with the Spring weather.

J was the responsible one and put the bikes back on the car while I took pictures of the burn area. Notice his "why are you taking my picture" face? Yeah, I snuck one of him too!

J was the responsible one and put the bikes back on the car while I took pictures of the burn area. Notice his “why are you taking my picture” face? Yeah, I snuck one of him too!

Here's a better view of that face I was talking about.

Here’s a better view of that face I was talking about.

 What adventures did you take this weekend?

Till next time!

April @ fitandfancylife Signature

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

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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?