In his self-titled autobiography released last year, Zayn Malik revealed that he struggled with an eating disorder.
"I’d just go for days — sometimes two or three days straight — without eating anything at all," Malik wrote. "It got quite serious, although at the time I didn’t recognize it for what it was."
His confession made headline after headline and opened the floor for an important conversation about men and eating disorders.
But now the former One Direction member is ready to talk about the mental aspects of having an eating disorder — not just the physical ones.
Malik told The Sunday Times Style magazine that his poor relationship with food was a "control thing" and stemmed from his intense anxiety.
"It was the one area where I could say, ‘No, I'm not eating that,'" Malik said, explaining that avoiding food was the one way he could "control" his hectic life in the spotlight.
Malik said once he conquered his anxiety and fear of losing control, he was able to overcome his eating disorder.
"Once I got over the control, the eating just came back into place, super naturally," he said. "I came back to the UK and spent some time with my mum and got some TLC, and she cooked me food and I got back in touch, mentally, with a lot of the things I'd lost."
Although it's a difficult topic to discuss, Malik believes his confession opened people's eyes to the fact that men can suffer from eating disorders, too.
"People saw strength in that, and they didn't seem to expect it from a guy, but they expect it from a female, which to me is crazy," Malik said. "We're all human. People are often afraid to admit difficulties, but I don't believe that there should be a struggle with anything that's the truth."
He thinks men are more willing to open up about their own mental and emotional struggles now.
“If you were a guy, you used to have to be really masculine, but now expressing emotion is accepted and respected,” he added.
Malik's story serves as an important reminder that mental illness and eating disorders aren't gender specific.
Statistics prove eating disorders aren't just a "women's problem."
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) estimates that 10 million men in the United States will have an eating disorder in their lifetimes — that means one in 10 men in the United States has an eating disorder.
Malik should be applauded for speaking out and fighting against the massive stigma.