Kyla Fox is a woman who seems to have it all together — she’s down to earth, has two beautiful girls, a doting husband, a killer wardrobe, and a thriving career.
But Kyla will be the first to tell you that her life isn’t always picture-perfect, and as someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, every day is an unpredictable journey. In 2012, she launched The Kyla Fox Centre, a comprehensive treatment and recovery oasis that offers intensive clinical therapy and holistic healing for those suffering from eating disorders. We spoke to Kyla about her journey through recovery, pregnancy, and the lessons of self-acceptance she wishes to pass down to her daughters.
Name: Kyla Fox, Founder, CEO, and Clinical Therapist at The Kyla Fox Centre
Location: Toronto, Canada
Education: Honors BA in Women’s Studies and Drama, and a Master’s of Social Work
You began your college career with ambitions to become an actress. Tell us what motivated your career pivot.
I was accepted into the Drama program at DePaul University in Chicago. I had been in the performing arts most of my life. I attended an arts high school in Toronto and grew up in the theatre and doing some television. After my first year at DePaul, I was scouted by an agent in Los Angeles and so I deferred my next year at school to test the waters in the hopes of becoming “famous!”
Los Angeles was a complete bust — a lot to do with the difficulties of getting work as a Canadian and a WHOLE lot do with how challenging it is to become an actor. It was a major blow to my 18-year-old ego. I left L.A. after a year and returned home to Toronto. I didn’t know my next move (should I return to DePaul? But for what, to graduate and do that whole L.A. thing again? Who am I if I don’t act? What will I do with my life?!), all those hard questions. I remember on the plane coming home telling myself that I was going to work out more and change my diet – have something else to focus on. My intention wasn’t to lose weight, it was to control something at a time when I felt utterly out of control.
Long story short, I developed acute anorexia and an over-exercise addiction and fell into a deep dark world of rituals, regime, and depression. This was not due to the precipitating circumstances about feeling like a failed actor — that was just what brought it all to a head. Eating disorders live deeply in people and show themselves at poignant times in their lives. Fast forward to my recovery and my realization that I needed to help those who were suffering as I had. I needed to become the therapist that I would’ve wanted when I was struggling, hence the career shift.
What did your specific recovery journey look like?
Recovery is complicated and long term. To share all the unique ways that I have moved into wellness would be as lengthy as a novel, but what I can say is that it has been a journey of self-discovery — one that I feel grateful for. Recovery has forced me to look inward and learn how to connect deeply with myself, my body, and with others. I really know who I am now and how to recognize my patterns and my tendencies. I’m not sure I would have known all this of me otherwise. And so, though I would never wish an eating disorder upon anyone, without it, I don’t believe I would live as richly, in my heart, as I do now.
Most believe recovery is focused exclusively on restoring the relationship one has with food and their weight, but it’s way more complicated than that. When you are affected by an eating disorder, you align and obey with the rules and rituals demanded of you by your eating-disordered mind. Moreover, when you embark on recovery, you are essentially going against these rules and rituals, which make the eating disorder very loud and very angry — making recovery very challenging. My journey was without treatment — I couldn’t get the care I needed in Toronto — waitlists were too lengthy, and professionals I met claiming to be eating disorders experts knew very little about how to help me.
“Treatment” was created with my family, in my home, with them helping to re-feed me to keep me safe and alive. I started to unpack the emotional work at the root of my harm on my own as I healed. The food intake and weight restoration regulated relatively quickly (providing me with more physical stability and safety). But my mind remained just as imprisoned, despite the healthy changes to my body. As eating disorders are one of the most pervasive mental health issues, the most challenging part of recovery is healing your mind. This is why recovery is long and complex — because in order to change your mindset, your behaviors, and your sense of self, you have to go deep, deep into you.
I kind of think of recovery like clearing out the boxes of stuff we all tend to store in our basement. You know, those boxes that we all move from house to house and yet never unpack? The ones that take up space, collect dust, but never seem to get gone? Recovery, essentially, is getting down deep into your basement and opening all those boxes — taking things out, facing them, feeling them, confronting them, throwing them away, healing them, and making space for what’s new. My recovery has been made up of all of this agonizing (and then freeing), work. I don’t have those dusty boxes in my “house” anymore.
Tell us about creating The Kyla Fox Recovery Centre. What steps had to be in place for you to make the leap into entrepreneurship?
I was in private practice for almost a decade before opening The Kyla Fox Centre. I therefore had been an entrepreneur extensively for years. What I learned was that my clients needed other sources of support (outside of just therapy) to move them even further along in their wellness. I would refer them to other professionals, those claiming to have experience in eating disorders, only to have them return feeling disappointed and misunderstood (similar to my experience in recovery).
I had always spoken about creating a comprehensive recovery centre for those suffering where people could access a multidisciplinary team of professionals in one single place. A place with professionals who deeply understand eating disorders, where a circle of care is provided, where waitlists don’t exist, and where treatment is individualized – because I believe that no two people have the same eating disorder, and therefore, no two people require the same treatment in recovery. When I turned 30, I told my family that before I turned 31, I would open a centre.
I was tired of talking about it. And so, I did it.
As a woman in recovery from an eating disorder, did you have any fears about pregnancy? How did you handle them?
Yes! First, I worried I’d never get pregnant given all the years I was in harm and the degree of my harm to my body. I had not menstruated, on and off, for over a decade — I thought for sure I was infertile (a common side effect for those who have/have had eating disorders). I really do feel it was a miracle that I got pregnant easily with both my girls, and I will be forever thankful for that.
Pregnancy was very challenging for me — all the changes with my body, the lack of control I felt — it all emulated the dark and scary places of my past. I wrote an article about it for a national Canadian paper. It was important for me to speak about this very real struggle.
Has recovery changed for you after motherhood? If so, how?
I’ve been recovered now for a long time — never acting on harming my body with food for almost 20 years now. But the self-deprecating thoughts can creep in — it’s the noise in your mind that takes the longest to go away. I barely hear it anymore (if at all) but sometimes, if I’m struggling in my life emotionally, it whispers to me. I hear it but I don’t really listen.
Becoming a mother has really reaffirmed recovery for me. I want more than anything to model a safe and peaceful relationship with food and my body for my girls and I will stop at nothing to show up to that. I feel motherhood has been really corrective for me. I mean, I really work hard teaching my girls about loving themselves and having the ability to be emotionally expressive. We talk endlessly about feelings and I feel I give them space to have all the feelings they have.
Motherhood also reminds me about the importance of family tradition around food, normalizing food, eating meals together (and eating the same things they eat, not just a salad), enjoying food, not restricting food, being active in our bodies, and learning about all the ways our bodies work and support us. Motherhood has been a relearning for me about how glorious food and the body are and how profoundly I, as a mother, affect these ideas in my kids.
What do you hope to provide for other women at your center?
Life. A belief in life. A chance to live freely and fully and honestly. I hope to inspire women to believe anything is possible and that you really can recover from an eating disorder.
How has motherhood impacted you as a person and a professional?
Motherhood has impacted me so profoundly — I couldn’t possibly articulate all the ways that I have evolved and changed. Nothing about me is really the same. I guess I can say that I’m more deeply grateful, patient, open-minded, more exhausted, more overwhelmed, more empathic, less of a perfectionistic, more worried (no, terrified!), more kind, more present. Professionally, I am more affected by the parents that come into the Centre for their kids – I feel so deeply for what it means for them that their child is suffering.
Tell us about transitioning to being a working mom and what surprised you the most about it.
As an entrepreneur, I never really stopped working. I didn’t do clinical work for the first year of my girls’ lives, but in many ways, I still ran the Centre, supervised my team, and oversaw all the treatment for my clients. I did this with my girls in tow, breastfeeding, pumping, whatever I had to do. It has been an ongoing juggling act, one that I often wonder if I’m any good at at all.
How do you handle work-life balance while also making time for self-care?
I don’t. I don’t! Is there such a thing? Please tell me if there is. I’m just trying my best.
Sometimes I catch that “balance” wave, and then other days it’s just not remotely possible. I’m lucky that I have the most supportive partner who’s an active, hands-on father to our girls, so this relieves me of a lot of guilt — we share the work together. I always make time to get on my mat (yoga is one of the most defining parts of who I am), and if I’m lucky I’ll take an Epson salt bath most nights.
What are the greatest challenges and rewards of being a working mom?
Not feeling like you can really be fully in motherhood or fully in work is a great challenge. My girls are still young (2.5 and 4) so it’s an endless, “I’m not doing enough” on both the mom and the work front.
I will say though that it’s really important to me that my girls see what I’ve created professionally — that they witness me foster lots of different parts of me. I want the same for them. I want them to know no limits and be inspired to get loud about the things that matter to them.
How has your view of motherhood changed since becoming a mom?
There is nothing harder in the world than being a mother. Period. I bow down to mothers now.
What’s the most rewarding and challenging part of being a parent?
Everything is rewarding and everything is challenging depending on the time, the day, the age/stage of your kids, and the amount of sleep you’ve had. Before I became a mom, I took a trip on my own to India for 10 weeks — something I had wanted to do for myself for as long as I could remember.
India was everything in extreme: so rich and so poor; beautiful, vibrant and alive; while also ugly, dull, and life-sucking. Being a parent, for me, is like being in India — it’s everything.
When it comes to being a mom: what are you most insecure about and what are you most confident about?
I feel really lucky that I waited until I was 35 to have my kids. I had a lot of time to get to know myself, to develop my career and my mind, to become financially stable, and to really get to know me. I feel good about the woman I am, and therefore good about the mother part of the women that my kids get to have.
Insecurity, though, is constant. Shifting, yes. Changing, yes. But it’s always there.
What lasting impression do you want your daughters to have of you as a mom?
I want them to know I was there for them. Always. That I was actively present in their lives. That we had dance parties singing The Lion Sleeps Tonight at the top of our lungs. That we baked banana chocolate chip muffins, told each other bedtime secrets, and colored on the basement walls. I want them to feel that I was fun and fierce, and mostly that I love them more than anything in the entire world.
What do you want to teach your daughters about self-acceptance?
They are enough. Exactly as they are, exactly who they are, is enough — more than enough.
If you could only pick one, what has been your favorite memory from motherhood so far?
I couldn’t. I couldn’t pick one memory. The truth is I’m endlessly mesmerized by the two little people that I created — who they are, what they say, how they think. They are so damn funny and so freaking cool. I’m just simply in awe every second.
Tell us your morning routine.
Wake up at 6am. Pee, brush teeth, face oil, get dressed. Make a chai latte and get breakfast sorted for everyone in the quiet before the house wakes. Get the kids (and hubby) up around 6:45am. They pee, brush teeth, get dressed for school. Come downstairs for breakfast around 7am. Eat together and talk about the day ahead. Get on our coats, shoes, etc. Leave the house by 8-8:15am to walk to school. Oh! And usually there’s a meltdown, an endless array of “come on girls,” “keep going,” “we gotta go faster” — all that good, real-life, motherhood stuff, you know?
Kyla Fox is The Everymom…
Favorite family tradition? Saturday Farmer’s Market – lunch, live music, and local goodies
Easy go-to family meal to prepare? Scrambled eggs with avocado on toast
Your dream vacation? Traveling parts of Europe (Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain) and eating incredible food
Guilty pleasure? The Bachelor (don’t judge!)
Most embarrassing mom moment? Augusta having a tantrum on one of the busiest, most crowded streets in Toronto. Screaming, kicking, hitting – completely inconsolable – as I tried desperately to get her in the car. Ryan, seeing this, copying her. So the two girls in hysterics while the whole street just stopped and stared. I just started laughing. What else could I do?
Proudest career achievement? The Kyla Fox Centre, hands down.
Favorite date night activity? Out for dinner, a glass of wine, home by 8:30.