Zayn Malik is an open book.
In an interview with the Associated Press (via the BBC), the “Like I Would” singer revealed he suffered from an eating disorder during his final months as a member of One Direction. “When I look back at images of myself from around November 2014, before the final tour, I can see how ill I was,” Malik, 23, said. “Something I’ve never talked about in public before, but which I have come to terms with since leaving the band, is that I was suffering from an eating disorder.”
“It wasn’t as though I had any concerns about my weight or anything like that. I’d just go for days—sometimes two or three days straight—without eating anything at all,” the British pop star confessed. “It got quite serious, although at the time I didn’t recognize it for what it was.”
(Later in the interview, however, Malik downplayed the seriousness his claims. “I don’t think I ever had an eating disorder,” the pop star insisted. “I was never diagnosed with one of them.”)
Malik quit the multiplatinum band in 2015 after skipping several group appearances due to stress. He later embarked on a solo career, releasing his debut album, Mind of Mine, in 2016. Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles released one more album, Made in the A.M., after Malik quit; the band is now on an indefinite hiatus to pursue individual interests.
In his final months with the group, Malik’s eating disorder worsened. “I didn’t feel like I had control over anything else in my life, but food was something I could control, so I did,” he said.
“I had lost so much weight I had become ill. The workload and the pace of life on the road put together with the pressures and strains of everything going on within the band had badly affected my eating habits,” he added. Over time, Malik said, “I realized that I wasn’t eating as much just down to the amount of work that we were doing…our schedule was kind of crazy so we were all over the place. It was just more down to losing track of, you know, actually eating and being super busy and getting caught up with other things that 17 or 18-year-olds do, which normally entails them going out, drinking or partying, so it was a mixture of everything.”
Malik—who has also been open about his anxiety issues—said he feels “great” today. “That machine was already going, it was at 100 miles per hour and it was harder to get off that machine,” the “Pillowtalk” singer said of his time in One Direction. “I’m controlling this one.”
Zayn is out now.