What is a “Spoonie?” (Spoon Theory)

The short: You may have seen the term “Spoonie” in many different corners of the internet, or you may have seen that term for the very first time on this blog. Either way, this post is a short rundown of what the Spoon Theory is and how it affects people’s lives.

“Spoonie” (pronounced /spoon-ey/)


Definition: a person who lives with one or multiple chronic illnesses that renders that person with a very limited amount of daily energy.

So now you know that some people who have a chronic or invisible illness are called “Spoonies,” but where does this term come from and what are the implications?

Where did this term come from?

The term “Spoonie” was officially coined in 2003 by a writer named Christine Miserandino who used the idea of spoons to show a friend how her Lupus affected her life. Spoonies have always been frustrated by how difficult it is explain their limitations to others, but now that we have a simple, universal term for our daily energy struggle, we have a much easier time coaching healthy people in the “sport of being sick.”

Now, to clarify, not every person with a chronic illness is a Spoonie. You can be a person with diabetes or moderate arthritis and still live a relatively normal life, even though you must manage symptoms through lifestyle changes and medication. Often, Spoonies are living with the more strange and misunderstood illnesses like MS, Fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme, Lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, EDS, and dysautonomia. Note: None of this is meant to minimize anyone’s personal experience or to make one ailment sound worse than another, because it is not a competition; I am simply explaining that most Spoonies tend to fall under a certain umbrella of disorders.

If you look at the info-graphic below, you will notice that certain daily activities require different numbers of “spoons worth of energy.” An activity like brushing your teeth and combing your hair may seem like nothing to the average person, but to a Spoonie those activities may require 2 whole spoons of energy which could be a large chunk of your daily total, depending on what condition you’re in.


I’ll use my own life as an example. Five years ago I probably had about 20 spoons upon waking up in the morning so I was usually able to go to class, feed myself, do homework, and enjoy a social event on any given day without completely falling apart. Currently, I’m running on roughly 5 spoons per day, so that even just getting myself dressed and going to one appointment will put me on my back for the rest of the evening (add on an exposure to an allergen or a menstrual period and the number of spoons plummets.)

I estimate that most healthy people have roughly 40 spoons every day, and that one, terrifyingly-energetic person that we all know probably has 60 spoons to his or her name (we’re all jealous and we hate you!)

Anyone who has experienced the mono virus before can sympathize with the Spoonie struggle; can you bring to mind that aching, stiff-necked, swollen-lymph-node, feverish, beyond-exausted feeling? Imagine living like that every single day and having others expect you to act normal. The biggest difference between acute illness (like the flu or mono) and chronic illness (like Lyme or Lupus) is that people expect you to eventually “snap out of it” and eventually act normal again when you have a chronic illness. No gym teacher would expect a kid with mono to run a two-mile workout, but when they hear you have “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” they think, what a lazy butt, they’re just making excuses! We’re not lazy, we’re not unmotivated, and we’re not “just depressed.” We’re sick and we’re just trying to hobble our way through life as best we can.

I’ll get off my soap-box now, but all this is to say that the Spoon Theory can be really helpful for people who are Spoonies or people who know Spoonies. I love the illustration of “spoons” because it’s a concept that everyone can understand and understanding can be the oil the keeps the “relationship-machine” running in many cases.

If you’re a Spoonie, I highly encourage you to show this info-graphic to someone in your life who may need a little help understanding how you live every day. A picture really is worth a thousand words!

And if you’re a regular person, I hope this metaphor makes sense and helps you see life through Spoon-colored-glasses.

Thank you for reading, and may the Spoons be ever in your favor!

Em the Silver Spoonie




4 thoughts on “What is a “Spoonie?” (Spoon Theory)

  1. This is so helpful for people like me to better understand the world of chronic illness I truly have been in the dark and lacked knowledge. Thank you so much for sharing!!


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