01 Jan HEALTH HERO: HENRIETTA NORTON7 minute read
Henrietta Norton is one of the UK’s most highly regarded nutrition practitioners.
Not only is she the co-founder of the B Corps-registered supplement company, Wild Nutrition, but she is also the author of Take Control of Your Endometriosis and Your Pregnancy Nutrition Guide.
Here Henrietta chats about her own health challenges, her favourite foods, and the sacred parts of her daily routine…
How would you describe your job?
Rewarding! I spent 17 years working in clinic as a nutritional therapist, and now I’m the Nutrition Director of Wild Nutrition.
The industry has changed rapidly. My friends and colleagues were all going up the career ladder when I started studying nutrition. Their reaction was, ‘What is that?!’ It was considered very alternative back then, which is bananas. Now nutrition is part of mainstream conversation, and it’s hugely exciting.
My role as Nutrition Director is varied. Some days I’ll be formulating products, doing research, or working on the new-product-development pipeline, while other days I’ll be going to show or conferences, doing interviews or spending the day filming for social media. It all centres around the desire to help people find balance in their health.
What inspired you to work in this area?
Like many, I was inspired by my own health challenges. In my early twenties, I felt exhausted all the time. I was burning the candle at both ends, but it felt more than that—I had longstanding digestive issues and hormonal issues, but I had no idea why.
I was recommended to go and see and nutritionist. She was a doctor who had also trained in nutrition, so her approach was very rooted in science. I’d always had an innate interest in the human body—as a 10-year-old, I asked for a book on the human body for Christmas—and when she explained things to me, it just clicked.
Seeing that nutritionist was a significant shift in my life. I followed her advice and immediately felt the benefits. I thought, I want to understand this better and share it with others.
So, that’s how I was inspired to start—and I was further fuelled by working in clinic and seeing this approach work with other people. I also worked out that endometriosis was behind many of my health issues, and I ran my own healing protocol, which helped with the clients I saw too. It’s been a self-propelling, inspiring journey that hasn’t stopped.
Like many people working in nutrition, I was inspired by my own health challenges
What does your typical day look like?
I have a schedule that’s very much dictated by having three children, but I always ring-fence time in the morning to do my meditation and yoga practice. In a very busy and demanding life, those things are sacred to me. My experience of the day is very different if I don’t do them.
I take the children to school during term time, and then start work. Today, for example, I’m doing interviews in the morning and then working from home, and I’m going to London later for a brainstorming business conference.
We have two dogs and three cats, so I always build in a daily walk. Time outside is, again, sacred to me! Even if I have a whole day in London, I get up early to fit a walk in.
My husband and I don’t watch much television, just because it’s nice to have a bit of quiet time once the children have gone to bed. I’m an avid reader, but I often don’t make three pages before I’m drifting off.
What does health mean to you?
I think if there’s one word that sums it up, it would be ‘balance’. And that relates to all aspects of health: there’s no point in having the healthiest diet in the world if you don’t have a healthy mindset or if you’re working yourself too hard.
Balance comes from nurturing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual sides of ourselves.
What do you think are the biggest misperceptions about health today?
As nutrition has become more mainstream, I’ve observed that people have developed an almost obsessive mentality around it—and that’s just not necessary. If you’re following a nutrition plan rigidly and wondering why you’re not getting the results you want, it may be that the rigidity is the problem.
Too much guidance about what we should be eating can be counterproductive. I believe in a flexitarian approach!
It sounds trite, but much of my work in clinic was about empowering women to understand their own body. What works for your body won’t necessarily work for the person next to you, so it’s all about tuning into yourself.
What’s your favourite thing to eat?
It very much depends on the season and where I am. Right now, in this autumnal season, I’m loving sweet potato, butternut squash and other warming root vegetables.
I also love good-quality crisps and will occasionally enjoy a bowl with a glass of wine. It’s almost an end-of-week ritual.
Too much guidance about what we should be eating can be counterproductive
If you could give just one piece of advice concerning food, what would it be and why?
I like the phrase, ‘If you can’t pick it, grow it or catch it, limit it’. This approach endorses a more seasonal approach to eating, which I fully advocate.
Nature has delivered what she’s delivered for a purpose. Berries are out right now, for example, because we need those anthocyanidins and antioxidant systems.
Whom do you look up to, and why?
The ecologist Satish Kumar is my absolute god! He is the editor of Resurgence & Ecologist magazine, and a pioneer on environmental practices and what it truly means to be healthy.
I would highly recommend anybody to read his book, Soil, Soul, Society. He delves into the synergistic relationship we have with our planet and our physical environment, and with each other—and it makes you realise how important it all is for balanced health.
Tell us something about you that people wouldn’t expect.
I’ve still got a burning ambition to be an international DJ! Music has been part of my heartbeat for such a long time. It’s a bit part of our family now too—playing music, hearing music, going to see live music of all genres.
Aside from good health, family and friends, what do you cherish in your life?
I cherish nature. Today, after dropping the kids off at school, I drove through a wood and a deer ran out in front of me. I had to stop for only about 30 seconds, but it was a beautiful moment.
That’s what I mean when I say my mediation and yoga practice affects my whole day. It helps me notice and appreciate those little moments, whether it’s seeing that deer or just going to shop and having someone be incredibly kind.
With eco anxiety, COVID and the general feeling that the planet is falling apart, I feel it’s important to be reminded of all the beautiful things that are happening around us all the time.