Behind someone’s success there is always a vision. When that vision is connected to a personal experience, it makes its outcome all the more fulfilling and empowering. To use the words of Jonathan Swift, “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” I had the pleasure to talk to a modern local visionary, Kyla Fox, founder of The Kyla Fox Centre, an outpatient Eating Disorder Recovery Centre and Women’s Wellness Centre in Toronto.
A social worker by background and an eating disorder survivor, Kyla has dedicated most of her life “helping people to live full and honest lives, without harm, and to raise awareness of eating disorders and issues surrounding women’s health.” In her late teens-early 20s, Kyla suffered with an eating disorder so acute that it put her life at risk.
Opened in 2012, the Centre is a space where people can access help with the support of a multidisciplinary team, placing emphasis on individualized treatment for each client. After having been in practice for 10 years, Kyla felt “there was a massive gap in the services for those affected by eating disorders in a comprehensive way”, and so she created The Kyla Fox Centre. And because women who don’t identify as having eating disorders/disordered eating were wanting to access care at the Centre, Kyla launched, in 2018, the Women’s Wellness Program
— a space for women and those who identify as women, “to receive care, support, and treatment in a way that will support and improve their lives.”
Contrary to popular belief, eating disorders are not a young white rich girl’s disease. Although eating disorders do not discriminate and cross over every race, gender, and every socio-economic status, they are not equally distributed amongst genders as disproportionately more women than men are affected.
As an individualized treatment centre, clients are provided with supports and services that meet their unique needs. Kyla knows that eating disorders are not exclusively about food or the body. Moreover, “what happens with food and the body is a manifestation of much deeper things that are going on with a person. The ability to be well in life is about confronting those things.” Therefore, using individual, family, couple, and/or group therapy in order to get to the root causes of the harm
—combined with food and body work—is how treatment at the Centre is designed. Nutritionally speaking, the work is to break down the rules and rituals that those suffering present with. As the approach is “unconventional”, because no two people have the same needs, incorporation of meal support, meal prep, cooking, food outings, and groceries shopping can be part of that work. In terms of the body and reconnecting to it, clients may incorporate naturopathic medicine, yoga, meditation, reiki, acupuncture, mindfulness, meditation, or a combination of all of the above. Art therapy, creative and expressive therapies are also in place to serve the clients’ needs.
“The success rate is very high,” Kyla states, “partly because our clients seek us out and work with us generally for the long haul. Typically, treatment lasts six to 12 months.”
In a world where we are bombarded with images and messages, I wonder how much social media platforms, such as Instagram, and more specifically pro-ana sites contribute to the rise of eating disorders amongst people. As Kyla states, “If it was as simple to develop an eating disorder by looking at images on Instagram, then every single person would have one. It’s not contagious. If it affects us, it’s because something in our lives makes us vulnerable and if it doesn’t, it’s because we have other protective factors in place. “
Kyla now deeply appreciates her body and “all it has done to forgive her, and join with her.” Giving birth to her two daughters has been “the most miraculous part of living well and living free.” As a mother, she is certain that her history will not compromise her daughters’ wellbeing because she has confronted her demons before embarking on such an endeavour.
Kyla has been an avid yogi for over 20 years. She also teaches it as a hobby at a yoga studio. It was introduced to her when she was acutely ill and since then it’s been a spiritual practice that makes her stay connected to herself. She also loves being outdoors in nature, cooking, and being in the company of “people who lift me up” and inspire her to grow and evolve.
Kyla is a public speaker, writer, and advocate for eating disorder awareness, mental health, and women’s wellness.