Celebrities have slowly become more comfortable speaking out about their eating disorders and recovery. People like Taylor Swift, Lily Collins, Lady Gaga, and more have gotten candid about their struggles.
But while disordered eating has slowly become less taboo to talk about for women, it’s still rarely discussed when it comes to men.
According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), 25% of individuals suffering from anorexia are men. And because they often go undiagnosed, men with anorexia are at a higher risk of dying.
Overall, about 0.1% of young men suffer from an eating disorder (compared to 0.3%-0.4% of young women). And this number is growing. A 2011 study found that hospitalizations for eating disorders in men increased by 53% between 1999 and 2009.
But fortunately, there are some men who are starting to come forward with their experiences with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Male celebrities like Zayn Malik and Elton John have opened up about their disordered eating. By doing so, they’re creating a safe space for other men to do the same.
Read their stories below.
“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. It got quite serious, although at the time I didn’t recognize it for what it was.”
“I think it was about control. I didn’t feel like I had control over anything else in my life, but food was something I could control, so I did. 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.”
In a 2015 essay for Men’s Journal, rapper Eminem revealed that he had replaced his addiction with Vicodin and Valium to an addiction to exercise (aka compulsive exercising) and calorie counting.
“I got an addict’s brain, and when it came to running, I think I got a little carried away. I became a fucking hamster. Seventeen miles a day on a treadmill. I would get up in the morning, and before I went to the studio, I would run eight and a half miles in about an hour. Then I’d come home and run another eight and a half.”
“I started getting OCD about the calories, making sure I burned 2,000 every day. In the end I got down to about 149 pounds.”
Musician Elton John has long been open about his past with eating disorders. In 2019, he discussed his many addictions including cocaine, alcohol, and sex. But he got particularly detailed when it came to his binge eating. He said,
“I was bulimic for six years. It was all through being paranoid about my weight but not able to stop eating. So in the end I’d gorge, then make myself sick.”
“For breakfast I’d have a fry-up, followed by 20 pots of cockles and then a tub of ice cream, so I’d throw it all up. I never stood still. I was always rushing, always thinking about the next thing. If I was eating a curry, I couldn’t wait to throw it up so that I could have the next one.”
In a 2020 interview with Hay House, musician Ed Sheeran briefly mentioned a history of disordered eating. He said he read Elton Johns’s autobiography and realized he related a lot to Elton’s experiences with bulimia.
“There are so many things that [Elton John] did that I do. He would be like: ‘I would just go on an ice-cream binge and eat four f**king desserts until I threw up,’ and I was like, ‘I’ve done that before.'”
To be clear, Ed never explicitly said he suffered from an eating disorder, but his description certainly does qualify as disordered eating.
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and The Challenge. When she’s not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her taking an absurd amount of photos of her tuxedo cat Tom.