Spoons and Autoimmune Conditions

Who are Spoonies?

Today, our much-loved Naturopath Chloe Turner teaches us all about Spoon Theory…

I woke up with an abundance of spoons today. What. A. Treat.

Have you ever heard of the Spoon Theory before? The terminology was coined by Christine Miserandino originally to explain to her friend what it was like to live with an autoimmune disease. Since then, autoimmune disease sufferers the world over have been rejoicing this analogy they can refer to when someone tells them they don’t really look that sick.

I was recently asked by another healthcare practitioner about how we, as naturopaths, classify chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The reason for her question was because she had a 16 year old patient she was trying to understand. It appeared the patient’s mum was concerned that this CFS diagnosis was only obvious when she was required to be at school or to be doing something productive, however the patient seemed to be okay to go and see her friends. Was she really that sick?

The spoon theory immediately came to mind.

A summary of the spoon theory:

When you have an autoimmune disease (or similar, such as CFS) you wake up with a certain number of “spoons”. Let’s say 12 today. Each activity throughout the day will cost you a certain number of spoons, starting with simple tasks such as getting up (1 spoon), making breakfast (1 spoon), having a shower (2 spoons).

Throughout the day, you are mostly fine. You seem fine. You smile. You laugh. You enjoy the company of others. But you know that this state of being is temporary and that eventually you will run out of spoons and you will have to go to bed immediately to recoup.

Some days you wake up with more spoons than others. Some activities cost more spoons that others. Going to school or work for 8 hours can be a huge expense on your spoon collection, whereas being around friends may be a small expense.

Now I can’t be certain about this patient as to whether this adequately explains her state of wellness or not, but I think it is important to consider. It is also really important for the friends and family of autoimmune disease sufferers (sometimes referred to as “Spoonies”) to try and understand why your comrade can look perfectly healthy one day and unable to come to your event the following.

Having an autoimmune disease for many is accompanied by endless guilt and wonder about whether this state of being is their fault or whether they are doing enough to help themselves and others.

Sometimes they just need someone to hold space for them while they work through it themselves. I generally advise my autoimmune patients to be vocal with your nearest and dearest to help them understand. Give yourself a break when you need it, and continue challenging yourself when you wake up with extra spoons.


Chloe consults at Clarity on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.  Click here to learn more about how she  can help you manage your autoimmune condition.


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