The Spoon Theory was created by Christine Miserandino in 2003 to represent energy rationing when struggling with a chronic illness.
She had lupus, and one day while hanging out at a diner with her friend, she used spoons to demonstrate what it meant to have limited energy.
Her friend had been with her to doctors’ visits and had seen her daily struggles, so Christine was surprised when her friend asked her what it was like to have lupus and be sick.
Christine used spoons to represent units of energy a person can have, and how chronic illness requires advanced planning, so that she didn’t run out of energy by the end of the day. Each spoon is used to measure the amount of mental or physical energy a person has available for daily living.
Each activity requires one or more spoons. Once you run out of spoons, you need to rest to replenish your spoons.
For example, let’s say you have ten spoons. You use one to shower (two if you want to wash your hair) and another to get dressed. You need food to fuel you, so you prepare a simple meal, which uses two spoons (because you want to nourish yourself instead of eating a bowl of cereal), and then you eat it, using another spoon. You have already used half your spoons, but your day has just begun.
With only five spoons left, how would you use them to prioritize what to get done in a day? How can you support your own wellness when only five spoons are left?
Many people struggling with chronic illness have a limited number of spoons, which represent energy, to expend throughout a day. This theory helps explain what it is like living with limited energy, and how it is necessary to plan around that limiting factor.
For some people, limited energy is compounded by the fact that rest may not replenish their energy reserves that day. Some people can benefit from napping, while for others, energy reserves can’t be replenished that day.
Many tasks that most people take for granted each day present a difficult decision when confronted with limited energy. Skipping a meal can cost a spoon, but so does preparing one.
Getting groceries will cost you a spoon. Will you have enough energy to make a meal? Driving to a restaurant will cost you a spoon too. Which choice will allow you to get food and eat it too?
What about the clean up afterward? Dishes need to be cleared or washed too.
The whole day is fraught with these kinds of decisions. How do you prioritize daily tasks when confronted with these types of decisions?
How do you prioritize wellness, when you can’t even get necessities done?
This theory resonates with many people with chronic health issues. The daily frustration of having to prioritize each small detail of a day was finally being explained in a tangible way to those who were having difficulty grasping what it means to live day after day with a debilitating health condition.
Fatigue and Mast Cells
One study reveals that 54% of people with mastocytosis have fatigue compared to healthy individuals who experienced no fatigue.
Histamine and mast cell involvement can leave you struggling with fatigue and limited energy, and many health conditions that have fatigue as a symptom have been shown to have histamine or mast cell involvement such as chronic fatigue (1) , fibromyalgia (2 , 3) , and IBS (4).
How is your energy? Do you have a limited amount you are able to accomplish in a day? Do you make daily decisions about where or what your energy should be used for each day? Are you exhausted well before your peers, making it hard to socialize?
Are you a spoonie?
Dietary Steps That Give You More Spoons
Nourish yourself: A body can’t have energy without the right fuel. Stay away from processed or packaged foods. Prioritize vegetables and good quality animal proteins each day. These are the most nutrient dense foods, so will give you more sustained energy throughout the day. Make sure breakfast contains meat and vegetables too.
Ask for help: Is there someone who can prepare a batch of nourishing soup or stew (made with a low histamine stock) each week? It can be hard to ask for help, but friends, family members, or church groups can be a good place to start. If you don’t have enough spoons to prepare food, asking for help is an important step. Freeze the soups or stew into serving sizes to keep histamine content low, and thaw as needed.
Get groceries delivered: Ordering groceries online has never been easier, and many stores have the option of setting up a reoccurring order, saving you from having to order each week. Choose a store that has frozen meat available, so histamine content stays low. Use our Shopping List to help you know what foods to order.
Cook with a pressure cooker or Instant Pot: The shorter cooking times keep histamine content low, and you can cook meat straight from frozen. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
If you are sensitive to a variety of foods, seek medical advice: Eating foods that are “healthy”, won’t be healthy for you if they create more inflammation and symptoms in your body. Talk to your doctor about strategies to calm your mast cells, so that you are able to tolerate more foods. Our cookbook is here to help too.
Whether or not you identify as a spoonie, the concept can be useful to help you:
Understand the need to prioritize tasks from an energy consumption perspective.
Explain your limited energy to family and friends. Share this blog post with them using the buttons below!
Monitor changes over time. Are you losing or gaining spoons?
We sincerely hope that Histamine Haven can help you gain spoons!