The Spoon Theory: What is it?

The spoon theory is a metaphor for how people with chronic illnesses or disability manage their energy. That’s why we refer to ourselves as “spoonies.” A spoon is a unit of measure that represents how much energy a person has. Physical activity requires and uses up a number of spoons, depending on how energy-draining it is.

How does it work?

While healthy people may be tired from an activity, but a quick rest or nap will be enough to regain their energy to do another activity on the same day. But people with chronic illnesses can only do one big activity a day, and will sometimes need to rest up and “save up spoons” the day before and recover for a day after.

Chronic illnesses leave you with a small amount of energy a day, and learning how to manage your energy is vital to function. I will sometimes not schedule to hang out with friends on days I work, and instead, see them on my days off.

If I’m low on spoons and need to do more stuff that will require more spoons, I can take spoons for the next day; however, I would have fewer spoons for the next day.

How many spoons for each activity?

The most mundane things for others is a big event for me. I am exhausted after changing my clothes and showering that I require a break between each task and resting for two hours afterward. Below are some examples of activities and how much spoons each requires.

Daily Amount: 20 Spoons

  • 1 Spoon
    • Get out of bed
    • Eat
    • Brush Teeth/Hair
  • 2 Spoons
    • Shower
    • Get Dressed
    • Do Makeup
    • Feed pets
    • Make bed
  • 3 Spoons
    • Quick shopping trip
    • Study
    • Hang out with friends (at my house)
  • 4 Spoons
    • Work
    • School
    • Doctor’s Appointment
    • Go out with friends
  • 5 Spoons
    • Concert
    • Amusement Park
    • Beach
    • Go to mall

Is it likes this for everyone?

There is some criticism about the spoon theory, and obviously, everyone’s illness and their experience is different. But the spoon theory is correct for me dealing with a chronic illness and others I have talked to and met.


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