Grocery stores are not designed for people with fibromyalgia. For years I shopped at the same store – not because the food or the selection was better than anywhere else. It was because I had learned where in the store each item was located. To the average customer, that information is only interesting. To me, with a finite amount of energy each day, it was necessary. With that knowledge, I could calculate what I needed, how much walking it would take to get what I needed, and weigh that against my energy level. I could make an informed decision about whether grocery shopping was doable that day.
And then everything changed. In grocery store parlance, it’s called a reset. For the average customer, it probably made sense, given the number of new products and even new categories of products that have recently become available. But for me, it spelled disaster. Each trip now includes wandering up and down the aisles to locate the items I need or searching for a clerk to guide me in the right direction. In the process, I’m wasting precious energy I could have used to prepare a meal or wash a load of clothes later that day. Now the amount of energy required to shop is only a guess. After a few recent excursions, I considered myself fortunate if I had enough strength left to put away the things I bought.
Although I live in southern California, I dress for a northeast winter day when I shop. Why do they keep the temperature so low? I used to rationalize that the cold was emanating from the refrigerator cases and the freezer section. But now that they’ve enclosed a lot of the frozen things and moved the refrigerated sections to the back of the store, that argument doesn’t hold up. A blast of arctic air meets me at the front door. But then I look around, and I realize it’s only me. The rest of the customers are wearing tank tops; I’m wearing fleece. Fibromyalgia strikes again!
No one else appears bothered by the odors in the soap section except me. How I hate to be out of dishwasher detergent. It’s never where I found it last, and it’s frequently replaced by a new formulation. It used to be powder, then it was a gel. Now it’s in a small plastic cube. Each format has its own packaging. If I don’t read each box carefully, I’ll bring home the one that doesn’t work in my dishwasher. While studying the differences, my eyes are watering, and all my symptoms are getting worse. My best hope is that the one I need is at eye level and that it won’t require me to get up and off my cart.
Yes, I use motorized carts, and I appreciate them very much. There are days when the walk from the parking lot does me in. Those days I need a place to sit as soon as I arrive. Those carts have been lifesavers on more than one occasion.
But I’d like to suggest two improvements. One would be the addition of some subtle noise when they move to warn other customers of your approach, or that you’re waiting behind them. My sudden presence has startled many a customer, and I’ve felt badly about that. Second, and more important, I would include a long-handled grabber. Unless the things I want to buy are at my seated level, standing up is required for each item. The constant up-and-down and on-and-off can make shopping by electric cart more physically exhausting than walking and pushing a basket.
So, what’s my solution? Right now I’m busy memorizing the location of the items I purchase most frequently in the store where I formerly shopped. I’m also exploring different stores to see if their layouts make more sense to me. I now consider the shopping experience as my exercise for that day. I prefer not to use a cart unless it’s necessary. Walking is wonderful exercise – as long as I don’t have other physically demanding items on my agenda that day.
As with most other facets of life with fibromyalgia, grocery shopping is doable with planning and preparation.
Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.