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The Truth About Popular Diets: My Journey to True Health

I was recently asked my opinion about a certain diet and I realized that perhaps it’s time I told my story and experiences of all the diets out there. I once was that person that read all of the eating lifestyle books, attended the webinars, and hung on to every word those popular doctors said. I am a 5/1 Generator, and my coping skill is reading and learning. It's literally who God made me to be!

I’m not new to dieting. I began dieting at a young age and by high school I was adamantly eating low fat. I rocked it and maintained 120 healthy pounds until I experienced a deep, emotional betrayal and verbal and emotional abuse around the age of 18. From that experience, I struggled with my weight ever since. Which, by the way, mono happened at the time I was in the relationship, and I never recovered fully and ended having Epstein Barr.

In college, I was diagnosed with PCOS and was given a diabetic eating plan and told to walk 20 minutes a day. I dropped the weight and did great. It was really hard to follow in college though, because 

  1. I had a roommate who was a bit of bully and gaslit me. She was very much about eating away feelings with fast food and sugar and pushed me and bullied me into eating fast food and processed foods with her, laying on the guilt, instead of honoring my attempts to be healthy. Yes, I own that I could have done what I needed to do, but most days it was easier to go along with her and keep the peace in the apartment.

  2. I was in college and I wanted to eat like everyone else. I didn’t want to be different. I just wanted to fit in and be like everyone else.

After college, I moved to Wilmington and I ate whatever I wanted and gained weight. Eating whole foods was hard when I didn’t cook well and most kids my age ate out all the time.

I moved to Winston Salem a few years ago, and connected with girls who loved to eat out and we ate a lot of Mexican food, fast food, processed foods.

By 2007, I was 220 pounds. I had horrible fibromyalgia symptoms, PCOS was out of control, thyroid was sluggish, hormones out of balance, adrenals taxed. I was very depressed and  anxious and started having insomnia. 

About 3 years later, I was introduced to organic eating, herbs, supplements and Dr. Hyman. I found an integrative doctor and Emotion Code and Body Code. I was starting to turn the tide on my health, but little did I know that I was walking into the land of eating disorder, just packaged a little differently. I would spend the next 12 years on a health journey that was ruled by an eating disorder. 

During that time, here is what I implemented and the real story of what it did to my body.

I stated with a green smoothie detox. The concept is great but there wasn’t education that this was not a lifestyle, and no education on what to do when the detox was over. This started one of the most dangerous things I did which was removing salt from my diet. This resulted years later in major electrolyte deficiency. 

I joined Beachbody, and the shakes, diet and workouts drained my adrenals, leaving me exhausted all the time. I was in a culture of "workout until your sweat is crying  and your legs are shaking".  This led to becoming a fitness instructor and over caffeinating, leading workouts that I purposely tried to get my heart racing as fast as possible that led to ultimately crashing with chronic fatigue, activated Epstein Barr, taxed adrenals and weight gain.

From there, I tried intuitive eating with long fasting days, around 18-20 hours, some days 24 hours. This wrecked my hormones, caused me to lose my appetite signals which resulted in eventually insulin resistance kicking my butt.

From there, I did low carb and fasting without grains or sugar and it worked really well until it didn’t. I stopped losing weight and started gaining because it wrecked my cortisol, adrenals and other hormones. This was my favorite lifestyle but it led to me not eating enough and wrecking my body at the core. 

From there, I did Keto Swtich and got down to 139 pounds. This was great but I was only eating about 800-900 calories a day. My body did well until, again, it didn’t. The weight started sliding back up.

At this point, I did AIP, and then went full on plant based vegan. At this point of being vegan again, my energy tanked more than ever thought possible, inflammation kept getting higher, my shoulder froze, hormones were really out of whack. Even supplementing with Earthley’s Vitamin D and their naturally occurring B vitamin tincture, my D was a 16 and I was deficient in B12. The weight was coming on and I was starting to have tachycardia. 

I was so humble and eager to try anything that worked and whatever I tried I went all in 100%. At this point, anxiety was creeping up. I had added a little meat in and was working with a trainer and the weight was going up like crazy. 

I was listening to all these doctors, reading all of these books and so confused about what to eat or not that some days I would go back to vegan, other days low carb but not eating enough because all the fear tactic diets all say collectively that all food is dangerous and going to harm you. At this point, I was beginning to recognize that I was in fight or flight and was dealing with disordred eating from this culture of weight loss, and the "perfect" diet and "clean eating".

My stress level at this point was extremely high. I was scared to eat. I was having high histamine reactions to food, which sometimes lead to tachycardia after eating. The weight was going up, I was not sleeping, I was feeling worse and worse, and then we discovered I had SIBO, low vitamin D, low B12, no progesterone (I was using wild yam and hormonal tinctures) and I’m in permeopause. WTH???!?!

Another round of what seemed to be COVID, while I’m on a herbal protocol for SBIO, and all of a sudden, I was feeling dizzy, blood pressure was high, I had random reactions to foods, I was beyond exhausted, I couldn't drive because of the panic attacks, tinnitus was keeping me up at night so I couldn’t sleep, definitely was still gaining weight and I was having really bad brain fog and memory issues and couldn't focus.  I stopped working out with the trainer, which was the best thing I could have ever done. 

In May of 2022, I was diagnosed with Epstein Barr and possibly Lipedema and lymphadema and I was barely functioning.

So, I started a protocol and part of that was keto. I ate keto very clean, and diligently, hired a keto coach and gained weight. I received no help or ideas on how not to gain weight on keto. My macros were perfect. My body was stressed and I was gaining.

Then, I had a “nurse” want to “help me”. She demanded that I take out more foods, eat 100% organic and that if I didn’t remove more foods and eat from this small list, I would never get better. It was either follow her diet or else. I tried it and my body had severe tachycardia. You see, at this point, I was so undernourished, that taking out any more foods caused my body to revolt and went shutdown. She didn't listen to me, and unfortunatley, she only knew one way to "cure" people. Fortunately, I had enough intuition to stop working with her. 

So, then, still looking for the answer in nutrition, I jumped to Paleo and eventually the “pro-metabolic” plan. The pro-metabolic plan sounds good in theory and I followed it well to gain 30 more pounds and reach 190 in May of 2023. 

My body hurt so badly at this point from the extra weight. My knees hurt. I ached all over, I was exhausted. I was frustrated. I couldn't focus. I couldn't remember things well. 

But, I am the most stubborn person on the planet and am determined to find the solution and win this battle. 

At this point, Anxiety and depression were high. The one thing I wanted in life was to be in good health and to be my optimal weight. Through blood, sweat and tears I had given 100% to all of these diets. 

Finally around July of 2023, things began to slowly turn a corner. I began to learn decades of research on Epstein Barr and what activates it, which includes:

  • Excessive workouts

  • Excessive heat

  • Getting too cold

  • Undernourished 

  • Stress

  • Toxins 

  • Gluten, dairy and sugar 

Read more about Epstein Barr here.

Epstein Barr, SIBO and insulin resistance all play a dirty game together. They can begin to play together and feed into each other making each other so much worse.

I, finally after 2 years of my NP telling me this was all caused by insulin’s resistance, was beginning to understand this was all caused by insulin resistance!! LOL I’m stubborn AND a slow learner sometimes! 

But, here’s the thing. Lots of people do really well on keto, low carb, paleo, Mediterranean to reverse insulin resistance.

But, there is one factor here that is less common.

They probably don't have the severe reaction to nightshades that I do.

On day 1, of working with my current nutritionist, she instantly found what I had not discovered, nor had anyone else. I am severely intolerant to nightshades. And very very very sensitive to peppers. 

What did I eat a lot of when eating keto? PEPPERS!! Because they are low carb, are crunchy and taste good! 

What did I eat on keto switch toward the end? Salsa on my salads every day.

My go to “healthy” food is add peppers. Some tomatoes, but lots of peppers.

So, did the plans fail me? No

My body is unique and it took a couple of decades to find this. The expert on Epstein Barr even says there is not enough evidence to support nightshades activate EBV. I have yet to find many articles to support the intolerance, but here is what I know:

As of today, I have been on a GLP-1 since my body doesn’t make it or make enough. I gained 30 pounds on it. Unheard of.

In September of 2023, in my first appointment with my nutritionist, I took them and gluten and dairy out and the weight slowly started coming off. My hormones balanced, my energy started getting better, my focus and memory improved, anxiety reduced, etc. 

I added them back in separately to see how I would react. So far, I can handle a little Parmesan. I could have a few bites of gluten once and be ok.

BUT, one meal of shrimp boiled in Cajun seasoning and in less than 24 hours, I experienced:

  • Blood sugar imbalance

  • Severe Fibromyalgia (pain and stiffness that had me crying, angry and miserable, unable to sleep).

  • Severe fatigue

  • Can’t sleep because I can’t get comfortable 

  • Panic attacks 

  • Anxiety

  • Depression (like my life is such a waste, I’m a loser type of depression)

  • Can’t focus 

  • Irritable 

  • Hormones out of balance 

As I write this, I’m a week and half out and am bouncing back more quickly. 

I’m still healing to get back to where I was physically and emotionally, but I am using my healing tools to recover. 

Oh, and we have found my protocol that works for me:

  • Eat as soon as I wake up, even if it’s a protein shake before breakfast.

  • I aim for 1400-1600 calories a day

  • No nightshades

  • No dairy, except occasionally Parmesan and or cheddar

  • No gluten 

  • I aim for 140 grams of protein (minimum is 100)

  • I aim for 25-40 grams of fiber 

  • I keep complex net carbs around 50-100

  • No sugar, except a tiny amount of coconut sugar or honey on occasion

  • 80% of foods coming from whole foods with my 20% of processed foods coming from a protein shake, salad dressing, pancake mix, BFree bread, vegan cream cheese, etc

  • I aim to walk 25 minutes a day at a slow leisure pace

  • Gentle soothing yoga for cortisol balancing 

  • Lymphatic drainage massage 

  • Probiotic and prebiotic foods  

My supplements include:

As needed supplement: 

Gamma E



SIBO protocol

For my emotional and spiritual health, I do the following:

Prayer and daily devotional time

AO Mind Sync

Sun gazing


Renewing my mind in my journal 



Conversations with friends 

My physical movement now looks like:

Leisure walking 

Gentle movement in the water 

Gone are the days of caffeine, high intensity workouts, long work days, while under feeding my body.

I have stepped into a place of grace and harmony with my body. I am still healing, and I don’t believe we ever stop. I believe if we “stop” healing, we are actually moving toward dis-ease. 

If my story resonates with you, I pray you find hope and inspiration in my journey, and I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, and if you would like daily encouragement, I invite you to join my Facebook community by clicking here.

Much Love,

Amanda Surratt, BS, CECP, CBCP, CHIHC

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