What is spoon theory?


What is spoon theory?

Spoon theory is a term often used by those with a chronic illness or disability both visible and invisible to describe their energy levels. It is a useful analogy to share with others to help understand what is going on in their world and helpful for the individual with balancing/coordinating daily tasks  

Where did Spoon theory originate?

Spoon theory is the brainchild of Christine Miserandino who runs the website But you don’t look sick .com 

Please note at the time of writing this, the original blog was offline so I have linked in a video on youtube where Christine Miserandino talks about spoon theory and reads the original article. 

Spoon theory explained

Christine was in a New York dinner with her best friend, her friend had been to appointments with Christine over the years, been there through her struggles and so it surprised Christine when her best friend asked the question – “what it felt like to have Lupus and to be sick?”

Christine assumed her best friend knew all there was to know about Lupus. Christine attempted to explain living with Lupus yet her friend was not satisfied with those surface-level answers. Her friend deeply wanted to know Christine’s struggle, the real struggle. This forced Christine to ponder the question more deeply and in her best attempt to describe her world, Christine grabbed a bunch of spoons passed them to her friend and asked her to imagine having Lupus.

Christine then takes her through an imaginary day using spoons as a metaphor to describe energy levels and tasks

A key distinction

One key distinction made in the theory is the difference between being sick and being healthy. A healthy person doesn’t have a lot of thinking around choices that they make during the course of a day whereas someone with a chronic illness or disability will have to consider carefully -seemingly simple choices….choices that most people wouldn’t give a second thought about

Spoons can also be metaphorically seen as batteries and that each spoon is a unit of energy or a task and once spent, it’s spent/zapped of energy -and needs downtime to recharge again. Therefore choosing/balancing which activities or tasks to do requires making decisions about seemingly simple tasks. 

Another element of Spoon theory is that on any given day the number of spoons/energy reserves available to that person isn’t fixed, for example, someone may have 10 spoons one day and find that on another day they only have 5 spoons to do them that day all the while many things outside of their control could also use a few spoons and very often it may not even be lunchtime and all the spoons have been used.

On a personal note

Spoon theory resonated very deeply with me when I first heard of it, In my own life and experience it helped me on the road to balancing activities, accepting that what I had available to me was just that – what was available and that it could change super quick. 

It helped me cultivate a level of appreciation for what I had, and that was a big turn around just there. Spoon theory helped me to explain to others who were interested how, as much as I’d like to have gone to an event, called around to see a friend and say hi or spend some time with family, that I couldn’t -I was spent/burnt up and really needed to recharge.

Oh and some other things not to ‘spend’ spoons on:

Those who don’t want to understand

Tasks that in the grand scheme of things are not relevant

Dwelling on feelings and emotions or anything there is no control over… Overtime developing a ‘let it go’ attitude 

In short…

Spoons are precious. 


Not as precious as you 

Emerge & Be you to the full 


P.s The hashtag #spoonie is referring to someone who has an illness and understanding of spoon theory or may use the hashtag to raise awareness.

P.Ps Like this resource? Share it with someone you know that may like it too, you never know how it may change someone’s life

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