Taking Health Personally
Alumna Katherine Caris-Harris helps people maximize their health and wellness through nutrition and lifestyle changes.
For alumna Katherine Caris-Harris, a common thread runs through her time at J.P. Morgan and her work now as a nutritional therapist – a commitment to client service and working with busy, accomplished executives.
Caris-Harris joined J.P. Morgan in the early 2000s as a vice president in investment management in the Asset & Wealth Management group in London, managing high-net-worth clients, trusts and charities for three years. One day while at the gym, a trainer encouraged her to sign up for a 10k. “I never had a sporty background,” she says, reflecting on that moment at 39 years of age.
But she enjoyed the race. Ultimately, she ran several marathons, and learned to swim and bought a bike to try triathlons. Caris-Harris went on to do numerous IronMan competitions and now represents Great Britain in her age-group at both the European and World Championship level.
“I thought, this is all great, but is all the training I’m doing balanced, and what if I get injured?” She was ready for a new career challenge, one she could do while raising her young children. So, in 2014 she went back to university to study Nutritional Science.
Now, Caris-Harris is a registered nutritionist and performance health coach who specializes in functional nutrition. Her business, KCH Nutrition, takes a personalized, bespoke approach to health and wellness that aims to get to the root cause of health issues rather than merely treating symptoms. She’s also currently working toward a master’s in Applied Neuropsychology, a field that looks at the relationships between the brain and behavior.
Caris-Harris works with a range of clients—from people with chronic health issues to those experiencing burnout. “Testing is a big part of it,” she says. “General wellness programs don’t always have the answers and aren’t enough. To sustain what you love doing in life, you have to know how to support your body through food, nutrition and lifestyle.”
For example, Caris-Harris orders specialized blood tests for her clients that look at vitamin and mineral deficiencies, metabolic status, hormone levels, and markers of inflammation. Then she creates a highly personalized health and nutrition plan.
“People wonder, should I be vegan, keto, avoid carbs. There’s so much out there, and the answer depends on what’s right for you. What’s right for a 25-year-old woman will be different from what’s right for someone who’s 45,” she says.
Measuring progress by retesting is a crucial part of the process, too, Caris-Harris says.
“People think high performance is just about sports,” she says. “But really it’s about what performance is to you—having the energy to play with your children or grandchildren, going out, doing what you love doing.”
As 2024 begins, we asked Caris-Harris for some of her top tips for busy professionals to sustain high performance:
Focus on one small change. Many people make ambitious New Year’s resolutions like “get healthier,” then give it up come February. Instead, pick one small daily habit you can commit to changing. For example, forgo that 11 a.m. sugary muffin you eat after skipping breakfast and commit to eating a healthier first meal of the day.
Before presentations, don’t miss meals. Giving a two-hour presentation can be as taxing on the body as a running a half marathon, she says. Before a morning presentation, don’t skip breakfast or only have a sugar fix. Instead, prepare a homemade smoothie with frozen berries and veggies, nuts, seeds and protein powder. Good nutrition is also key when traveling, especially long-haul travel. Make sure you’re properly fueling your body. “You can do a lot if you get the food right first,” she says. Evidence shows that snacks pre-presentations should also include a protein source to reduce the cortisol spike that can result from eating a carb source alone. This will help sustain energy throughout, she notes.
Don’t eat while working. To the extent you can, step away from your desk during lunch. Sit at a table instead, don’t look at emails, and take ten deep breaths to relax the body and get the digestive system ready to work properly before you eat. If we eat in a stressed state, we can’t digest properly, and we can see a domino effect of health issues, Caris-Harris says.
Careful with coffee. Drinking a couple of cups every morning is probably fine, but if you find yourself relying on caffeine to get by, you need to ask yourself why. First, don’t miss breakfast and have coffee on an empty stomach, she says. If you need an afternoon coffee to get through the day, you may need to reevaluate what you’re eating for lunch, making sure you’re getting a balanced meal with enough protein and fat.
Find your stop button. So many health issues are driven by stress (cortisol). It’s important to slow down and regularly let your body and mind rest and recover. Maybe that means not looking at emails after a certain time in the evening. This applies to exercise, too, she says. Don’t push through a workout if your body is telling you it needs downtime.
Some health changes can admittedly be difficult to make, Caris-Harris adds. “If you haven’t got your health, what have you got? It’s about changing that mindset and investing in yourself so you can live your life to the fullest.”
This article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your nutritionist or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition.