The idea of “Spoon Theory” was written and popularized by Christine Miserandino. While trying to explain what it was like to have a chronic illness or disability, she handed her friend a handful of spoons, representing how much energy a person starts their day with.

Miserandino then walked her friend through a day, taking a spoon away for every activity that required energy. Shower, take a spoon. Get dressed, take a spoon. And so on.

By the end of the day her friend was down to very few spoons and had to make difficult decisions about what she did with her remaining energy. For example, if she made dinner she wouldn’t have energy to clean the cookware. If she did chores, she couldn’t go out with friends. If she did something fun, she would have to sacrifice something else. Or she could borrow spoons from the next day, but then she’d have to make do with fewer spoons in the morning.

This analogy took off as a helpful teaching tool for the friends, family, and loved ones of people with chronic conditions that sap energy and/or time. It can help establish boundaries of what a person physically and emotionally can and can’t do on a particular day. It can also be the premise of a video game.