Even a Perfect Diet Will Fail Without Stress Management

It’s Monday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Monday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

On November of 2017 I sent a story to Mark’s Daily Apple. A brief story of my life at the time and how I got there. I’ve re-read that letter a couple of times and I’ve thought maybe I should have waited or I should have said more, so I thought maybe an update from then to now would be helpful.

My primal story started as a diet and exercise program, I needed to get back into shape so I hit the gym, or in my case hit the treadmill in my garage, and went on a diet. I did what everyone else does when they want to lose weight and “get healthy.” If you read my original story and look at the pictures, I figured it out. I lost 60 pounds total and improved my numbers to a point my doctor was amazed at my results. I completed the Primal Health Coach course, and Mom loved to hear about what I was learning.


Everything was great, well almost everything. My mom’s health was declining fast, she was slowly losing her battle with cancer. My sisters and I started staying weekends with her to spend as much time as possible with her, we would drink wine, and talk about the past and laugh about all the crazy things we did. My brother-in-law would come down about once a month and bring steaks, and we would grill over a grate in the fireplace and drink beer and wine and laugh. Mom couldn’t really eat that much anymore, but we had a lot of fun.

I started going to visit every day after work, and I’d grab a bag of chips and a case of beer to have when I got there, a candy bar or two for the way there. Eventually mom needed 24-hour care so she moved in with my sister in Michigan, but I still went every day to take care of the house. In April my mom lost her battle with cancer. My sisters and I would get together as much as we could to get the house ready to sell, and finalize the estate. I was there everyday—as the executor I felt I had to keep things moving and get everything done. I would buy beer and snacks and a bottle of whisky for when I was there….

I thought it was important to share that story because it’s real. During that time I gained 10 pounds, my cholesterol was high again and my sugar was elevated. Luckily for me I know how to correct all those issues and have. I failed where everyone on a diet fails—when the diet stops. The part I missed was the rest of life. Diet is important but even a perfect diet will fail without stress management. My stress management was alcohol, my comfort zone, and we all know your body burns alcohol first. I got off track and used my life problems as an excuse. Sometimes even a coach needs some coaching. This has kind of been a failure story instead of a success story, but I’m still writing.

I’ve taken what I learned from the Primal Health Coach Institute, and have started to develop my own brand, “Primal Hippie.” I started a very easy to read blog “primalhippie.net.” I blog a lot about stress from daily life and ideas how to manage that stress. I’ve taken the laid back, have fun attitude and mixed it with some nutrition advice and tried to aim it towards the younger generation because it’s easier to prevent disease than to cure it.

It’s very obvious to me that the trend towards living a holistic healthy life is happening, the amount of available, affordable, organic foods is on the rise. The merging of major food giants with small health-minded companies is another great step—great work Mark. There is even some common ground being found with the paleo/vegan world. This trend is still very personal to me. Since my first post, four more friends of mine have been diagnosed with cancer, one is currently non-responsive. I hear a lot about all the advances in medicine, and yet here we are. It’s time to educate the young people, and make healthy foods the norm not the exception.

Thanks Mark for all your passion and effort and giving me the chance to share my story, Grok on!

Bradley Nickell


The readers featured in our success stories share their experiences in their own words. The Primal Blueprint and Keto Reset diets are not intended as medical intervention or diagnosis. Nor are they replacements for working with a qualified healthcare practitioner. It’s important to speak with your doctor before beginning any new dietary or lifestyle program, and please consult your physician before making any changes to medication or treatment protocols. Each individual’s results may vary.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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17 thoughts on “Even a Perfect Diet Will Fail Without Stress Management”

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  1. Thanks for sharing your truth, Bradley! Especially what you say about stress: “Diet is important but even a perfect diet will fail without stress management.” That’s been absolutely true for me. People talk about being stressed out almost like it’s a badge of honor–I’m learning the hard way that it’s not.

    Wishing you continued health and success!

  2. This is startlingly timely for me. My beloved dad died almost two weeks ago after a three week rapid decline. Now I’m working daily with my heartbroken mom to get her ready to move almost immediately (the place they lived is for couples only). For over a month now I’ve been eating fast food, sugar and carbs in shocking amounts and with little thought (well, until my body started rebelling). This is probably the biggest loss/stressor I’ve ever faced and it has revealed my go to comfort behaviors like nothing else. I’m waking up from my fog and slamming the breaks on the crazy eating but it will be a fight as my body is in full sugar demand mode and my mind is tired and sad. But I am craving normalcy as well. I want my normal food, my normal routines, my normal world. I just have to figure it all out without my dad in it and that will take time. But the food thing I can deal with right now and see improvement almost immediately. My heart and soul will take some more time.

    1. Condolances to you Sharon (and Julie per her post below,). I have been in your shoes with both of my parents, who I was very close to. It was really hard on me and dammit I still miss them. I am a first time grandfather as of Saturday, wish they were still around to see her. Yes, time does help, be strong for your mom and after the initial shock hopefully you can sit down together and remember your dad with both laughter and tears. – George

  3. I lost my brother 3 weeks ago. It was a long hard health battle. Since then I have been sleeping a lot and eating a lot (both healthy and non healthy foods) and wondering why do I do this? Anyway, thank you for your timely article and I will check your website for stress management help. Grief sure hits us in different ways.

  4. I feel your pain. A few years ago, my parents went rapidly downhill and left me to take care of everything. My mother, being a hoarder, fought me all the way with getting the house cleaned out. Plus, I needed a root canal and two courses of antibiotics. Then I moved across the country. I was unable to eat a healthy, high-fat diet for about three years–the thought of high-fat anything turned my stomach.

    People, if you’re at retirement age or beyond, PLEASE get your affairs in order. You don’t need to move to a nursing home tomorrow, but you need to have a plan in place for the day you can’t take care of yourself anymore. Your children have other responsibilities and cannot do it all for you.

    1. Thank you so much for your story. I didn’t have the medical issues you had, but dealing with both a recently deceased mother and brother who were both major hoarders, I can not only feel your pain, but am still having to clean up their crap to this day — over 5 years ago. Not only hoarding stuff but not having their financial shit together, either, as they knew they should have done. The advice to get your shit together is so totally right on – the best thing we can do for our family is to go to another life with our shit intact. The efn stress has been and continues to be unbelievable. If you really care about your family, take care of them before you go and get your shit together.

      1. There is a book about this called Swedish Death Cleaning. It’s about how to get your affairs in order so that your family doesn’t have to deal with a lot of stuff after you die. But it’s basically about living a well-ordered life. I found it very helpful.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I too have fallen off the Primal way because of unmanaged stress that side swiped me without warning. I am slowly making my way back to the Primal way of eating. My goal is to get my Primal Health Coach certification. Thank you for giving me hope that I can reverse the damage I’ve done. Your inspiring story is what I needed right now.

  6. Bradley, thank you for sharing such personal details of your life with us! You remind us that, even with the best of habits and knowledge, life happens to all of us. I appreciate how you didn’t berate yourself. Accepting there are crumbled parts of our lives after loss helps us to face rebuilding in a positive, loving way. That sounds like success to me.

    I’m sorry for your loss and glad for you and your sisters’ care for each other.

  7. Thank you for such an open, honest, real-life post, Bradley. It meant a lot to me.

  8. So glad you updated your story, and so very sorry for your loss. Based on the previous comments, it sounds like your update has resonated with many people (including me!). Stressful life events can really throw us for a loop – I think it makes perfect sense that we would crave comfort and dopamine hits from food and beverage when we are going through a tough time. I know self-compassion when we fall off the wagon can be extra difficult when we are already struggling emotionally. Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your continued journey 🙂

  9. Brad, thank you so much for sharing your story. It really motivated me to get back on track after a long time using food as a coping mechanism to deal with challenging changes in my life in the past couple of years. Also, you have gorgeous hair! 🙂

  10. Thank you for sharing your story. We’re all human and I sometimes fall off the primal wagon, but being able to acknowledge the problem and address it (or even just talking about it) is an important step in getting back to the right place. My condolences to you and the commenters who’ve lost loved ones.

  11. Thanks for sharing your story Bradley. Im sorry to hear about your mom. I lost my dad as well, before I became a primal health coach though. But it surely affects you, a lot.

    Keep up the good work!

  12. So sorry for your loss, and can relate to having to be the one that has to arrange everything.
    As someone that is approaching 60 and having lost parents (had to travel across the US to do both of these), uncles, in-laws and friends. Totally agree that your Sh*t needs to be sorted so your kids / SO or friends can grieve without all the ‘administrative’ junk.

    I found MDA about 3 years ago and haven’t looked back. My life is so much better since following the primal “way”.
    Peace be with you.

  13. It’s really sad but it’s life. Thank you for the story, you are a brave man and a good example. I experienced a pretty similar situation when husband left me after the birth of a child. So, I gained extra weight despite the fact that I have already started to get in shape after pregnancy gain and childbirth. It’s important to find a person who will support in a difficult situation and show the right path.