spoon theory

[ spoon thee-uh-ree, theer-ee ]
/ ˈspun ˌθi ə ri, ˌθɪər i /


(sometimes initial capital letters) a metaphor to explain how a person with a disability or chronic disease must manage energy expenditures, calculate effort, and conserve resources to accomplish activities of daily living.



"The Handmaid's Tale" was required reading for many of us in school. Everyone else has probably watched the very popular and addictive TV show. Do you remember this vocabulary from the book, and do you know what these terms mean?
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Origin of spoon theory

Coined by Christine Miserandino (born 1978), U.S. blogger and author, in her essay “The Spoon Theory” (2003)

historical usage of spoon theory

In her 2003 essay, Christine Miserandino recalls first seizing upon the metaphor of the spoon when explaining to a friend how living with lupus required her to plan her life around an energy pool that is strictly limited, unlike the energy reserves of a healthy person. The two were eating, so she gathered a readily available item from the table as a tangible aid in her demonstration. Living with chronic illness is like living each day with a set number of spoons. Self-care, like preparing food, requires energy and costs a spoon. Neglecting such care, however, also reduces the overall number of spoons in one’s store. Rest may replenish the spoon collection for future activities, but people living with chronic illness, mental illness, or disability must be mindful that their stamina is not limitless, and must plan to live within the budget of spoons (energy) available to them.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020