The final 15: Choose food over filler

Tags: nutrition

By Troy Tuttle, M.S.

As an exercise physiologist, I know that it can be difficult to convince people that when trying to lose weight, proper nutrition is more important than the number of hours spent working out. I observe my clients time and time again focusing on the number of miles logged or diligently scribe the sets and reps of the weight they lifted only to grab a burger or scarf down a large meat pizza that same night. My main craft is exercise science, but I know my efforts are drastically minimized if my clients opt for “filler” instead of “food.”

I hear similar stories from my family physician friends. The caring, attentive physician is diligent and precise in finding the proper medication and dose for symptom relief, all the while doing their best to cure and then prevent the issue from recurring. Proper nutrition and exercise are essential in working to achieve this, especially in a number of common diseases like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and acid reflux, and while your patients may adhere to their medication regimen for the most part, they often neglect their nutrition and exercise.

Of course there are many societal and cultural obstacles to consistently eating healthy, nutritious food, but by making a few different choices and some mindset changes, your patients can see some real benefits. Recognizing the difference between food and filler, for example, is a critical component of eating right.

Food – substance that has high nutritive value. It’s what the body needs.
Filler – substance that has little to no nutritive value, but yet is ingested into the body and “fills” up the stomach.

Food is natural, colorful, raw, and basic. Filler is often a brown or bland colored item that results when you process food so that it lasts longer, tastes sweeter, and is more profitable. Eating filler keeps you hungry – you ate something, but you didn’t eat nutrition, so you eat more filler, gain weight, get health problems, etc.

When you think about it, grocery stores are usually designed and stocked so that food in its most natural and nutritious form can be found all around the perimeter, while the filler items line the shelves up and down the aisles. That’s an easy concept for a patient to remember and for you to communicate quickly.

Think about that final 15 seconds of office visits with patients who are trying to shed a few pounds. With just a bit of encouragement and education, you can pass along a couple of simple, practical, and powerful ideas. Tell them to choose food over filler, and to do most of their grocery shopping along the edges of the grocery store. These two basic points can help guide your patients to proper nutrition.


Troy Tuttle, M.S., has an extensive background in exercise physiology, from research journal publications to overseeing cardiovascular clinics at the Texas Medical Center.