In his first official book, Zayn, a memoir which has been released this week, Bradford’s pop superstar Zayn Malik has opened up about an eating disorder he suffered from whilst singing in the English-Irish pop boyband, One Direction.
The 23-year-old global superstar saw food as ‘something [he] could control’ and whilst he didn’t want to lose weight, looking back at pictures from 2014 had made him realise ‘how ill’ he was.
Zayn revealed: “When I look back at the images of myself from around November 2014, before the final tour, I can see how ill I was. 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.”
He said: “I'd just go for days - sometimes two or three days straight - without eating anything at all. It got quite serious.”
Zayn’s honesty about his condition could help shed light on eating disorders in the Asian community and Doctor Faraaz Bhatti, who works as an Emergency Medicine Registrar in Leeds, said that anorexia, bulimia and binge eating is prevalent but generally under-recognised in Yorkshire.
He said: “Eating disorders are prevalent in the community and perhaps even under-recognised; they are complex and only a part of the problem may be the social pressures to be 'thin'.
“As with other mental disorders, eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia nervosa or binge-eating disorder have genetic, psychological and environmental factors that lead to the particular disorder being triggered.”
Dr Bhatti believes there are various factors that can increase the risk of someone having an eating disorder, but thinks that a lack of community education which recognises these problems may be partly to blame.
“It is often family and friends that are best placed to look for tell-tale signs where someone may be missing meals; repeatedly looking in the mirror, weighing themselves; cooking big meals for others but not eating themselves.”
Looking at numbers, 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2000 men experience anorexia nervosa at some point.
Bulimia is more common. Various management plans are available, however the disorder has to be recognised first.
Dr Bhatti added: “This set of disorders affects Asians and non-Asians; however the stigma attached to them may differ - and cultural sensitivities exist. I think that we need to accept that there are cultural differences when approaching health and disease, however the community education should still be there. We should no longer see any stigma attached to mental health problems or eating disorders, but we do. There is still work to be done.”
Dr Bhatti thinks that in the Asian community, mental health disorders and eating disorders are less talked about.
“They are stigmatised and not tackled early on. I think by improving awareness, community education, school education and offering more community-based support we will see an improvement in their early recognition and management. There does need to be a holistic approach taking into account the ethnically-diverse multi-cultural society in which we live.
“Whilst highlighting the need for more community-based awareness, it is important to emphasise that there are many healthcare services available that do provide help and support and anyone with any concerns can learn more from the NHS Choices website.”