The Spoon Theory in the Science field

Updated: May 24

While talking to a friend of mine, she told me briefly about the spoon theory to explain something that we were discussing. Later on, during the day, I gave this some more thought and realized that it is something that everyone should at least know of.

The first question that comes to mind is: “what is the spoon theory?”. While I am glad you asked. The spoon theory was first coined by Christine Miserandino, who lives with Lupus. One day, her best friend asked her how she felt living with her conditions and to fully explain her world to her best friend the spoon theory was born. Handing her friend, a bunch of spoons, the spoons representing the amount of energy a sick person has for that day (unlike a healthy person that has an unlimited supply). Simple tasks such as waking up, or getting dressed cost a spoon or more. In the morning you take inventory of how many spoons you have for the day and then plan out your day. This opened her mind to better understanding her friend and why some days were more tiresome than others. (For the full story please follow the link; https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/ )


The spoon theory has now been adopted by people with invisible illnesses to help explain to others, although they might not physically look sick, internally they have used many of their spoons already for the day. People take for granted that not all diseases present with a visible condition and as such many of us have heard someone saying “but you don’t look sick”. It can be tiring to try explain an invisible illness to someone, however I have found that by using the spoon theory it has become a lot easier, and less costly to explain.


Looking back on my academic journey, many people had questioned why I had planned my days out in such detail. I would just say that is me and how I operate. I now realized I was planning out my spoons for the day. There were some days where I miscalculated and didn’t have enough spoons which led me to borrow from the next day. Other times it would seam as though there were a few extra spoons left over.

Entering the science field, people will always tell you how difficult it can be, and no lie there are some parts that make you ask yourself why you are doing this degree in the first place. There are many skills that a science degree will teach you besides science: team work, and time management are among some of those other "soft skills" that you will learn.

I have a new appreciation for scientists that do not let their illness/ conditions define them and still follow their passion in the field of science. They use their time and spoons wisely, all the while following their dreams – now that is admirable. I have had the honour of meeting some amazing people in the science field that are amazing scientists with limited spoons at their disposal.


So to everyone that has an invisible illness in the science field – YOU ROCK!

P.S. Always try to have an extra spoon for the ones that need it.

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