Skin Brushing & Why You Should Do It

So there’s this thing that’s been floating around the health world recently.  It’s a fairly new concept to the mainstream posts, but athletes and “hippy-dippy” folks have been using it for a while.  I’ve implemented it into my life over the past several months and have loved it.  So what am I talking about?

Skin brushing.

yerba-prima-skin-brush_grande
Photo credit: Barefoot Provisions, LLC (15)

Uhh… what?  Yes, you read correctly: brushing. your. skin.  Not your hair.  Not the hair on your skin, though it’ll be brushed along with it.  Your actual skin.  Brushing it.

So what exactly does this entail?  It entails using a natural-bristle brush, like this one (15), spending 5 minutes in the shower without the water running before you take your actual shower, and a whole lot of benefits to follow.  These include:

  • Lymphatic system stimulation
  • Detoxification
  • Reduced cellulite & stretch marks
  • Smoother skin
  • Enhanced proprioception (1)
  • Greater lifts & awareness during workouts

So how do we do skin brushing, exactly?  It’s simple, really.  De-robe and stand in a bathtub or shower.  You’ll want to be in one of these two locations because, after all, you’re removing dead skin cells and dirt!  Take the brush and gently use it to massage each area of skin you wish to brush.  Move in strokes that begin at the feet and work their way up toward your heart.  Overlap each stroke to ensure you brush each area effectively.  When brushing your arms, start at the hands and move toward the shoulder.  For the torso, start near the hips and move toward the chest.  It’s quite simple and shouldn’t hurt!  It’ll scratch a bit, especially the first few times you try it, but you should NOT be hurting yourself.

Pretty simple, right?  Here’s some more in-depth information on each of the benefits of skin brushing I listed above, if you’re interested in the “why” behind trying this for yourself.

Lymphatic System Stimulation

The lymphatic system (2) is often ignored in the health world and has finally recently received more attention for its many contributions to our bodies.  This system is responsible for the delivery of disease-fighting white blood cells to our various parts and ridding the body of unwanted materials.  The best way I’ve heard its operations described is that it’s basically like another circulatory system, but it doesn’t deliver blood and has no internal pumps (i.e. a heart) like veins and arteries do.  It’s like a water bottle: there’s liquid in it, but the water isn’t actually going to shift around unless something pushes the water bottle over.  Since there is no pump to move the fluid in the lymph around, it will actually sit still in your body if it is not stimulated to move… Newton’s First Law (4), yes?

So how do we get the lymph to move around more?  Obviously we need to move it ourselves.  I mean if you’re cool with toxins just hanging around in your body for long periods of time, then I guess you don’t need to move it.  But I’d like to keep that crap out of me, thanks.  One way to get it going is to move your body.  Literally.  Go for a walk.  Throw around some weights.  Just being active allows the lymphatic system to move around and do its job better.  But skin brushing is just another way to stimulate the lymph (5), and with this method, you have the power to control the direction it’s pushed.  By stroking the brush in the direction of the heart as I described in the intro to this post, you’re following the same basic pattern that the lymph nodes want to push their fluid to effectively detox the body and bring more white blood cells to their worksites.

Detoxification

Pretty closely tied with the benefits to the lymphatic system’s functions.  According to NaturalNews.com, the skin eliminates over 1 pound of waste per day, including dead skin cells, dirt, toxins, and pretty much everything else your body and/or skin comes in contact with (6).  By brushing that top layer of dead stuff off, you’re just accelerating the process while stimulating the lymphatic system to work quicker and more effectively.

Reduced Cellulite & Stretch Marks

What the WHAT?!  These are two things that so many people have issues with, including myself.  I’ve had stretch marks on my hips from I have no clue what since at least senior year of high school… probably because my legs are weirdly long and still haven’t seemed to stop growing yet.

Anyway, Edward Smith et al (3) patented one of the methods for skin stimulation to reduce both cellulite and stretch marks, and they report that surface skin stimulation via brushing has the following benefits:

  • Stimulating lymph flow
  • Increasing blood flow
  • Stretching the connective tissue fibers
  • Remodeling the dermal interface with the subcutaneous adipose tissue (meaning that the fat cells are moved around and “remodeled”)
  • Promoting cellular activity via stress-orientation (i.e. the cells are “woken up”)

All of the above bullet points (including the one on lymph flow, as I’ve already covered) basically rejuvenate the skin and allow the body a greater chance to repair itself.  The stimulation (“stress-orientation” of the cells) helps break apart some of the surface-level fat deposits (7) that cause the dimpled appearance known as cellulite.  As for stretch marks, the expedited removal of dead skin cells allows for faster replacement by the layers beneath, promoting skin tightness and reduction in appearance of those pesky stretches (8).  Think about how scars fade over time.  It’s the same concept, but you’re helping the process move faster by getting rid of that dead top layer each time you brush.

Smoother Skin

Again, pretty much a reiteration of the above reason.  If you’re consistently brushing off the dead and rough top layer of skin, the end result will be the reveal of the softer layer from beneath, which is very nice to touch!

Enhanced Proprioception

This is a super cool finding.  Proprioception is defined by Pysioroom.com as “the body’s ability to sense movement within joints and joint position” (1).  An occupational therapist by the name of Patricia Wilbarger has recently developed the Wilbarger Approach to Sensory Defensiveness using dry brushing (9).  Sensory Defensiveness is basically the abnormal response to normally non-noxious stimuli touch stimuli (10).  By providing joint stimulation and pressure from brushes, Wilbarger has proven that children suffering from sensory defensiveness were able to improve their body’s perception of dangerous vs. non-dangerous touch stimuli and gained greater awareness of where their body was in relation to itself at all times (11).

That super-scientific first sentence on this benefit is all leading me to say that while the subjects in the Wilbarger studies were using sterile, hospital-grade synthetic brushes and needed to participate in therapy to retrain their bodies to understand touch, this same type of stimulation can work on everyday Joes that simply want to control their movements better.  The gentle skin stimulation I’m referring to in this article wakes up the nerves just beneath the skin and awakens blood flow (12).  Those two factors allow anyone a heightened sense of awareness of their body in relation to itself and the things around it.

Greater Lifts & Awareness During Workouts

Hear me out on this last one.  In the same way that skin brushing can enhance spatial awareness in everyday activities, it can also improve your performance in the gym… especially for weightlifters.

By stimulating the nerves and reactivating blood flow to the areas that are brushed, the muscles below the areas you target are “woken up” and that increased blood to those areas have the potential to aid in better performance.  Throughout this article, I’ve referenced nerve ending stimulation via brushing.  However, I’ve failed to mention that the majority of your nerves are found in the fascia, which is analogous to a thin, sinewy casing of every muscle.  Not only does it encase each muscle, it encases each muscle fiber, each muscle fiber bundle, each muscle, AND entire groups of muscles spanning from the head to the feet (14).  When we “wake up” our nerves via skin brushing, we’re actually stimulating the fascia’s sensitivity (13).  Having fascia that is more in-tune and trained to adapt to the demands you place on it (in this case, lifting a heavy weight) will make you progress leaps and bounds quicker than someone who doesn’t take care of their fascia (13).  This is why you might see a powerlifter brushing their skin in a competition before stepping up to take their max lift.

Final Thoughts

We don’t give enough credit to our skin’s resiliency, especially with everything that hits it in our modern world.  By taking the simple step to brush the skin, you’re giving yourself a far greater chance at avoiding illness, improving weight loss, killing it in the gym, and looking great while you’re at it.  Give this method a test run for a month and see what it can do for your own wellbeing!

(1) n.a. 2016.  Using proprioception to enhance rehabilitation.  Pysioroom.  Retrieved from http://www.physioroom.com/injuries/supplements/proprioception.php

(2) Zimmermann, K. A.  July 9, 2015.  Lymphatic system: facts, functions, & diseases.  LiveScience.  Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/26983-lymphatic-system.html

(3) Smith, E., Oblong J. E., Samuel J. T., Bissett D. L., Bascom C. C., Kelm G. R.  Method, kit and device for the treatment of cosmetic skin conditions.  Patents US 20030069618 A1.  Retrieved from https://www.google.com/patents/US20030069618

(4) Hall, N.  May 5, 2015.  Newton’s laws of motion.  FirstGov.  Retrieved from https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/K-12/airplane/newton.html

(5) n.a.  n.d.  Skin brushing.  Center for Lymphatic Health.  Retrieved from http://www.lymphatichealth.com/skin-brushing/

(6) Jockers, D.  June 4, 2013.  Dry brushing to detoxify your body.  Natural News.  Retrieved from http://www.naturalnews.com/040615_dry_brushing_lymphatic_system_detox.html

(7) McCluskey, C.  July 16, 2012.  7 tips to naturally reduce cellulite.  Mind Body Green.  Retrieved from http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5479/7-Tips-to-Naturally-Reduce-Cellulite.html

(8) Editorial Staff.  n.d.  How to dry brush your skin.  Detox & Body Cleanse.  Retrieved from http://www.detoxandbodycleanse.com/beauty-and-spa/how-to-dry-brush-your-skin/

(9) n.a.  n.d.  Wilbarger approach to sensory defensiveness.  The Wilbarger Approach to Treatment of Sensory Defensiveness.  Retrieved from http://wilbarger.tripod.com/id3.html

(10) n.a.  n.d.  Sensory defensiveness.  The Wilbarger Approach to Treatment of Sensory Defensiveness.  Retrieved from http://wilbarger.tripod.com/id2.html

(11) Reder, R. D. et. al.  2009.  Autism brushing protocol.  Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.  Retrieved from Deep-Pressure Proprioceptive Protocols to Improve Sensory …

(12) Sutherland, L.  March 6, 2013.  Why you should start dry brushing today.   Mind Body Green.  Retrieved from http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-7955/why-you-should-start-dry-body-brushing-today.html

(13) Meyers, T.  March 23, 2011.  Fascial fitness: training in the neuromyofascial web.  Idea Health & Fitness Association.  Retrieved from http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/fascial-fitness

(14) n.a.  n.d.  Fascia.  Anatomy Trains.  Retrieved from https://www.anatomytrains.com/fascia/

(15) n.a.  2014.  Natural skin brush by Yerba Primal.  Barefoot Provisions.  Retrieved from barefootprovisions.com/…/skin-and-body-brush-by-yerba-prima

The Evil of Hunting

I realize that this  is, for whatever reason, a controversial thing to bring up with a lot of people.  Which makes sense – it does involve the taking of a life, after all.  I understand when people tell me they don’t think they could ever do it themselves.  That’s their choice and I really don’t care how they spend their spare time.  I was raised around it, which I know makes the idea much easier for me to go along with.  And most of the time, people are indifferent to my choice to partake in hunting.  But I recently had someone tell me that my participation in it was “evil,” and I wanted to hit on that.

I will be the first to admit how we hunt in Texas.  Our feed laws are looser than most Northern states, so hunters are allowed to set up feeders to attract deer (though hogs, coyotes, and raccoons are just as likely) for hunting.  I still use a rifle, but my father has been bow hunting since he was a teenager and so has my brother.  My goal for next season is to ditch the bullets, too.

Anyway, the particular person that sparked this article told me that they thought sitting in a blind, waiting for the deer to come and then just shooting them seemed awful.  Granted, when worded that way, it does.  But it’s not like we just shoot every living thing that walks into range.  Plus, let me just point out that there are many things that can go wrong, even in this scenario.  The deer smell you, you accidentally crack your water bottle when taking a sip, one rogue spike buck thinks something is off and scares away the whole herd.  And with bow hunting, you need to be CLOSE.  Like, hear-them-chewing-their-food-close.  Sure, we may not be stalking them down like real cavemen (ha) but if Grok could have figured out how to attract his meat to him in this way, he sure as hell would have.

And if your argument for hating hunters is that you love animals so much that you went vegan, this may not be much of a convincer for you.  I may disagree with you and tell you you’re ruining your health by going vegan (1), but you were so passionate about animals that you changed your lifestyle because of it.  You personally would not want to go through every step it takes to get a piece of meat on the table: shooting, skinning, cleaning, processing, storing, cooking, serving.  But what I don’t understand is when people who are perfectly fine with going to the grocery store to purchase factory-raised meat tell me that what my family does to feed ourselves is morally “less than.”  I’m not saying that if you don’t hunt you should go vegan, but using the argument that store-bought meat is somehow more ethical than hunting to feed yourself for the year is just erroneous to me.  Just hear me out.

What I think of as evil does not line up with what I picture when hunting.  When I think about animal cruelty, I picture America’s main source of meat: factory farms.  Animals are bred just to be separated from their mothers too early (2), kept in cages (3) so they can’t run when hormones are shoved into their muscles daily, and squeezed of every last bit of milk, eggs, or fur they can produce before being slaughtered (sometimes slowly) (4) and ground into glue. (5)  I picture consumers purchasing a single hamburger that can have muscle fibers from as many as 100 different cows (6).  Most of all, I picture people not taking a second thought to consider this as they fund its continuance every time they purchase this unethical meat.

Tell me again how a quick death after a full life of running around, sleeping wherever they choose, breeding with whomever they like, and eating as much as they want is “cruel” when compared to factory farming.

Don’t get me wrong there, I do purchase some meat.  But most of the time I get it from one of the many farmer’s markets that happen weekly in the Austin area.  I meet the person who raised the animal and will receive honest answers about its upbringing and life.  When that isn’t an option, I make sure I only buy grass fed (7) or pastured (8) products at the grocery store.  That is a respectable and ethical middle ground for those who choose to eat meat but do not want to hunt it themselves.

I understand that I was raised with it and not many people have had that privilege, so they come from a different standpoint than I.  And yes, there is a lot of nostalgia attached to the ranch for me.  Some of my fondest memories of growing up come from standing around the meat-cleaning station with hands numb from cold and leftover adrenaline.  But I also think my argument for hunting is a valid one.  Here are some of the good, objective things for society that most people don’t know about hunting:

  1. Every hunting license purchased goes toward the paychecks of game wardens (6) that will prevent the actual threat to game animals: poachers.  This fee also goes toward wildlife conservation (9).
  2. Deer populations can easily outgrow their environment, causing large numbers of them to starve to death (10).  Hunters are a form of population control so this result doesn’t occur.
  3. Hunters donate tons of food (11) each year to feed the homeless.

On top of these benefits, there are personal growth aspects involved with hunting.  It teaches patience.  Stillness.  Embracing quiet.  That not everything can come from instant-gratification.  It’s a wake-up call to how small you really are.  You learn how to be in nature.  It teaches you how to fail; few things are more disappointing than waiting for hours with nothing to watch.  This, then, also teaches discipline.  Some (including myself) would even say it shows you your true self.

It’s funny.  When I’m told by someone that they think hunting is cruel, I have to disagree.  I have never killed something out of malice or because I thought it was fun.  I feel like a lot of people who are against hunting think of us as animal-haters who just go around shooting things.  But I love these animals.  I fully respect every meal I eat that involves one I have taken myself because I know how much work went into it.  I woke up at 5AM, shivered my butt off for hours with some cold coffee and a good chance I won’t see anything worth shooting.  I forgoed certain animals I did see because they hadn’t lived a full enough life yet for it to be okay to take it away from them.  I spent the next few hours cleaning the game I was able to harvest.  I lugged it back home to spend more hours cleaning the cuts into the different categories for production.  And then I processed & sealed  it.  After all of that, a place must be saved to store it so the family can eat for the year.  When I’m at school, I cook it for myself, too.

So now you know that the title of this piece is the exact opposite of what I think.  Excuse me while go I eat my omega-3-filled (12) venison burger from this ONE deer that I shot a few weeks ago.

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Sources

(1) Kresser, C.  February 20, 2014.  Chris Kresser.  Retrieved from http://chriskresser.com/why-you-should-think-twice-about-vegetarian-and-vegan-diets/

(2) n.a.  n.d.  Mercy for Animals.  Retrieved from http://veal.mercyforanimals.org

(3) n.a.  n.d.  ASPCA.  Retrieved from https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/factory-farms/animals-factory-farms

(4)  n.a.  n.d.  The Humane Society of The United States.  Retrieved from http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/slaughter/

(5) n.a.  2016.  Made How.  Retrieved from http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/Glue.html

(6) Rawsthorne, T.  November 7th, 2014.  Daily Mail.  Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2826020/How-one-Big-Mac-contains-meat-100-cows.html

(7) n.a.  n.d.  American Grassfed.  Retrieved from http://www.americangrassfed.org/about-us/our-standards/

(8) Padgham, J.  2005.  American Pastured Poultry Producers Association.  Retrieved from http://www.apppa.org/content/10775

(9) n.a.  n.d.  Texas Parks and Wildlife.  Retrieved from https://tpwd.texas.gov/business/licenses/online_sales/

(10) n.a.  2015.  Nature Works.  Retrieved from http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/whitetaileddeer.htm

(11) n.a.  2016.  National Shooting Sports Foundation.  Retrieved from http://www.nssf.org/huntersfeed/

(12) Shaw, H.  May 22, 2013.  North American Whitetail.  Retrieved from http://www.northamericanwhitetail.com/home-featured/what-every-hunter-needs-to-know-about-venison-nutrition/

Limited Time Offer for Training With Me!

Hey y’all!  As many of you know by now, I have finally made things *official* and gotten certified as an ACE personal trainer.  I’ve been wanting to offer workout programs for a while now, and now I finally can!  I’m often asked what I do for my workouts or how I’ve had success, and now I can give specific routines to you for what you’re trying to accomplish.

As much as weight loss, fitness, and nutrition goals for the new year have become a cliché, they are very real and very important.  Don’t worry about the people mocking you now – they’ll be the ones asking for tips on your success later.  There are so many benefits to getting your body moving and I’m a huge dork about every single one of them, but those are for different blog posts on different days.  Today, I want to talk about this:

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My own 6-month back progress picture

Since this is the new year, and I know everyone has new health and fitness goals, I’m offering my followers a deal on my new online personal training program.  I have a limited number of spots open that will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis and I would LOVE for you to have one of them!  Here’s the deal:

  • You will receive 25% off of my regular rate for your first month with me.
  • We’ll discuss what you want from your time with me and what you like to do for exercise.
  • I will send you workouts each week that are designed to help you reach the goals we discuss.
  • I will help you with new food decisions, because what you eat drastically affects how much progress you have in the gym and what you see outside of it.
  • If you decide that following Body By Butter (what I use to stay on track) is something you want to try, you can click here to sign up with 25% off for Anne Marie and James‘ 6-week bootcamp to keep you on track with that part of your lifestyle change.  Let me get you moving and them fill your plate!
  • I will be your soundboard 24/7 for questions, concerns, and of course, celebrations!
  • I will make a custom workout playlist for you periodically, according to what music you say you like.
  • Feature opportunities on my social media channels are offered if you would like to showcase your transformations during your time spent with me.

If you are interested at ALL, please email me at flabstofitness@gmail.com with any questions.  This deal will run through January 10th, 2015.  There is no obligation in contacting me with any level of interest, and I’d like to think I’m a nice person to talk to about anything.  You may even get a good pun or two in my response, if you’re lucky.

Please note that we will be personalizing and designing a program that is right for YOU, works best for YOU, and makes YOUR body respond in the best way possible.  I’ve found what works for me and I want to help you do the same for yourself.  And because I know people like transformation pictures, here are a few more of myself from different points in my own fitness journey:

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30 days of eating and exercising right.
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Dates not shown, but this is roughly 6 months of progress.

I’m a real human that wants to make other real humans feel great about themselves again.  Let’s work together.  Hit me up at flabstofitness@gmail.com for more info.

Why I (Sometimes) Eat Rice

Rice

Yep.  You read the headline.  The all-about-paleo girl eats rice on occasion.

Half of you are probably thinking, “what’s wrong with rice?”  while the other half of you are internally screaming, “she’s a LIAR!  Rice is NOT paleo!”  To those in the second camp: please don’t burn me at the stake before I finish writing.  Hear me out on this.

I consider everything I eat before putting it on my plate, and the addition of this grain to my diet has been a long process.  If you’ve read the About Me section of this website, you know I’ve dealt with disordered eating in the past.  After going paleo, I felt so much better.  I re-learned how to actually listen to and care for my body, eating when I was hungry and stopping when I was satisfied.  I even allow myself treats sometimes.  My focus has truly shifted from wanting to be skinny (strong is way more fun, anyway) to genuinely wanting to fuel my body with the best so I can do life better.  The problem associated with this emerges from the mindset created in the wreckage of disordered eating: perfectionism.

The day I received rice on my plate by mistake while out at dinner with my family finally shook me out of this nonsense.  I was so hungry, and the rice was not mentioned on the menu but was a large portion of the dish.  I knew rice was gluten-free, but it was still a grain.  I did not want to be any pickier than I already had been that evening about my food, so I kept quiet and ate the rice.  And guess what?  NOTHING HAPPENED.  Well, nothing bad, anyway.  I was satisfied and it was a delicious entrée.  But all those scary things I’d read about why we should shun grains forever didn’t happen to me.  And you know what?  The rest of the paleo world is starting to agree with me.

Take for example Mark Sisson, the creator of the Primal Diet and author of the Primal Blueprint.  He stated in April that “an insulin-sensitive, sufficiently-active individual can consume [starches] in moderation” and that “any ‘negatives’ are mitigated by the emphasis on resistant starch” (1).  This resistant starch is important to our health and should be consumed on occasion to feed our healthy gut bacteria, as stated by Dr. Amy Nett on Chris Kesser’s website.  Nett goes on to say that butyrate production increases in the body as a result of resistant starch intake, and this helps reduce inflammation in the gut and other tissues (2).  Both Sisson and Kesser work daily with the leading researchers in the field of nutrition and performance (like Dr. Nett), so they know what they’re talking about.  And those statements all sound pretty good, if you ask me!

This being said, I enjoy real rice sometimes.  I can handle the carb load thanks to my 6-days-a-week of lifting and HIIT, and the benefits of a healthy gut cannot be overstated.  I do still make my Cauliflower Rice very often, and think it’s a great way to sneak in some veggies and lower the carb intake when the extra starches are not needed.  However, I’ve tried every end of the carb spectrum, and I tend to function better in life and hit more PRs in the gym when I’ve got a slightly higher intake (which is still lower than the RDA from MyPlate, mind you) than someone who is less active would need.  So, in regular life, I will use rice to fulfill that need for my body.

The paleo/primal mindset is shifting more and more toward what works for you as an individual, and this is a thing that works for me.  Testing out how different foods affect you are the only way you will be able to define your lines, so break away from that perfectionism shell and give rice a go!

If you’re curious about my sources for this article, here they are:

(1) Sisson, M. (2015, April 2).  Mark’s Daily Apple.  Retrieved from http://www.marksdailyapple.com/resistant-starch-your-questions-answered/#axzz3oaW12vnw

(2) Nett, A. ( 2014, August 14).  Chris Kesser.  Retrieved from http://chriskresser.com/how-resistant-starch-will-help-to-make-you-healthier-and-thinner/

 

Fair Trade Month!

BE FAIR Lock-Up-Final

Hey y’all!  Did you know that October is Fair Trade Month?  Well… now you do.

I was lucky enough to team up with Fair Trade USA to share with you a little bit of information on Fair Trade and its importance.  I have been paired with a Fair Trade Farmer, received some of her products, and get to share their stories with you!  And the best part?  I get to make new recipes with all of the products.  Everyone wins, especially the farmers.  So let’s get to it!

“Buy Fair. Be Fair.”

Fair Trade USA is a nonprofit organization that has launched the #BeFair campaign to spread the word on why Fair Trade is a crucial step toward fighting worldwide poverty and promoting ethical farming practices.  Not only are these basic principles met, but companies wishing to be certified must also adhere to other ethical and fair treatment guidelines in order to be considered “fair trade.”  These guidelines include:

Fair labor conditions – Fair wages, reasonable working hours, maternity leave, and freedom of association are all necessary first steps toward a Fair Trade Certification.  Slave work, child labor, and unsafe working conditions are prohibited.

Environmental sustainability – GMOs, harmful chemicals, and destructive farming techniques are not allowed in Fair Trade companies.  Farmers must use methods that preserve the land and environment for the use and enjoyment of future generations.

Community development – With each sale, Fair Trade farmers and workers earn a premium that goes toward crucial community-building elements such as education, healthcare, and clean water in the area where they live.

Democratic organization – Companies wishing to be Fair Trade certified must elect a committee that votes to designate how the community development premium is spent.

Women’s empowerment –  Harassment-free work environments and equal female representation are required in Fair Trade companies.  Women in the work force are also allowed and encouraged to hold leadership positions.

Direct relationships – Companies buy directly from farmers, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and creating real bonds between those who grow food and those who process or package it.  Direct sourcing will lead to more sustainable and reliable products for future generations to depend on.

Estrella-Formento
Estrella Formento, photo courtesy of Fair Trade USA

Sounds like a great way to let everyone win, right?  And that’s exactly the goal of Fair Trade. The farmer I was paired with, Estrella Formento, is a mother of 13 in the Philippines who works with Peter Paul, the first coconut farming group to become Fair Trade Certified in 2013. When asked about her opportunities through this company, she says, I didn’t have the option to pursue an education when I was growing up, but Fair Trade has given me the ability to open the doors of education to others.”  What a cool way for her to brighten the path for her own children and countless others in their community!

Now, as part of this celebration, Fair Trade USA has gathered up its companies and sent bloggers like myself packages of products from their partner farmers and other ingredients that would work well with them.  We get to make brand-new recipes with these ingredients and share them with you to celebrate all that the Fair Trade Certification has done and the wonderful farmers it supports!

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Above is a photo of the hugely generous haul in the package I received.  It included Nutiva Virgin Coconut Oil, Arrowhead Mills Organic Coconut Flour

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Eating Evolved Classic Coconut Butter Cups, a SunSpire 100% Cacao Organic Baking Bar

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Frontier Co-Op Black Peppercorns, Runa Loose Leaf Guayusa, and Lake Champlain Organic Unsweetened Cacao Powder.

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This is quite the mixture of ingredients that can be used for sweet and savory recipes.  I cannot wait to share what these allow me to create!

Remember, all of these companies (and others that are Fair Trade Certified) are supporting a great cause that is building up lives and communities every day.  Each purchase you make impacts the farmers and workers who produced that product, so why not put your money where the best cause lies?  Please check out these companies (clickable links are on each of their names) and stay tuned for new recipes incorporating each of them!

For more information on anything discussed in this article, please visit the Fair Trade USA website and the Be Fair Campaign Page.