In a new interview with The Sunday Times Style magazine, Zayn Malik opens up about the crippling pressure he felt during his time in One Direction, describing how the hyper "controlled" environment led to his issues with self-image and stress. But after regaining some peace and distance, Malik now feels like his anxiety has subsided.
"It wasn't specifically an eating disorder," he explains about the way in which he tried to manage his anxiety during the heady days when the group was blowing up and he found himself sprinting on the relentless treadmill of fame. "It was a control thing. Every area of my life was so regimented and controlled [the boys in 1D would sometimes have to go straight from playing a stadium to recording new material in the evening], it was the one area where I could say, 'No, I'm not eating that.' Once I got over the control, the eating just came back into place, super naturally."
Malik described his struggle with what he termed an eating disorder in his 2016 autobiography, Zayn, saying he'd go days sometimes without eating anything. But in the Style interview he attempts to clarify that struggle. "Not supernaturally!" he says. "Just really naturally. 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."
He also looks back on the period after leaving 1D where he holed up in the Beverly Hills Hotel for six months, eating room-service chicken wings, trying to pick up on the vibe of the ghosts of other musicians who'd sought refuge there in the past like Frank Sinatra and scribbling out lyrics to songs for his solo debut, Mind of Mine. He eventually moved out and into a home in Bel Air, where he lives with his model girlfriend, Gigi Hadid.
The freedom to do things on his own terms and schedule appears to have liberated Malik, who has sometimes struggled with bouts of anxiety that have kept him off the stage. "I now have no problem with anxiety," Malik says. "It was something I was dealing with in the band." He's still glad he spoke out before and brought attention to the stigma surrounding mental illness and body image.
"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," he says of his openness to baring his soul. "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."
Happy with Hadid and focused on his music, Malik has turned his attention to his second album, which he is hard at work on. "They always say the second album is difficult, but so far I'm really happy with this one," he says of the untitled effort due out later this year. "There are real signs of growth and development. Hopefully, as a human being, I'm growing too, in my knowledge and perception."
To read the full Style interview click here.