Diet vs. Protocol: What’s the Difference?



  1.  a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.


  1.  restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.

Which of these definitions resonates with you the most? The word “diet” conjures up so many associations, images, and feelings. Maybe it brings up images of weight-loss commercials and specially prepared, pre-packed food promising a new body. Do you think of rigid calorie-counting and portion control? Does it resurface old feelings of failure or shame? 

Diet culture is pervasive and infectious. It is synonymous with body shaming and inadequacy. In simplest terms, it’s toxic. At a minimum it perpetuates mental health struggles and at a maximum encourages disordered eating. 

So why am I talking about this?

The Autoimmune Protocol is not a diet. It is not a prescribed way of eating. It does not promote restriction and rigidity for the sake of deprivation. It does not promote wellness through the guise of beauty standards, weight loss, and outward appearance. Click here to read more about what AIP is. 

The Autoimmune Protocol is just that, a protocol. 



  1.  a detailed plan of a scientific or medical experiment, treatment, or procedure

Now, let me be very clear: as a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (FNTP) and a Certified AIP Coach, I do not prescribe, diagnose, or treat medical conditions. The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) was developed as a tool for identifying foods that trigger individual autoimmune symptoms. In simple terms – AIP is a science experiment you conduct on yourself. 

AIP is a detailed approach of temporarily removing foods that are known to elicit an inflammatory response in those with autoimmune disease, and systematically reintroducing these same foods to determine one’s individual sensitivities in effort to reduce autoimmune symptoms and potentially reverse the effects of autoimmune disease. 

So how does this differ from a diet?

The Autoimmune Protocol emphasizes internal healing, not outward appearance. AIP uses symptomatic improvement as markers for success, rather than numbers on a scale. While you might see changes to your weight and physical appearance, these are viewed as a sign of internal healing, rather than the “goal line.” 

The temporary eliminations part of AIP have a specific purpose of identifying food triggers. AIP does not promote the removal of foods for the sake of restriction and does not call for calorie counting or portion control. Instead, it encourages you to eat as much healing, whole-foods based meals as possible without restriction! 

The Autoimmune Protocol is meant to be used as a template from which you build your personalized way of eating through the process of reintroductions and does not promote long-term food restriction! 


Jesse St. Jean

Jesse St. Jean

I am many things: a wife, a daughter, a sister, a nutritional therapist, a dog-mom… and I’m an autoimmune warrior.

Nutritional therapist Jesse

Hi, I'm Jesse

I empower women autoimmune warriors to reclaim their health by teaching each woman how to make the right food choices to heal her body while confidently owning her journey so she can live a vibrant life with chronic illness.


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