For Judy Collins, food and drink have been part of the jour­ney

Singer, 77, tells how she beat her demons

USA TODAY US Edition - - LIFE - Jo­ce­lyn McClurg @jo­ce­lyn­m­c­clurg USA TO­DAY

Singer Judy Collins burst on the scene in the 1960s and is still go­ing strong at age 77, even scor­ing a Grammy nom­i­na­tion this year for best folk al­bum. Al­ways can­did, she has a new me­moir, Crav­ings: How I Con­quered Food (Nan A. Talese/Dou­ble­day), in which she writes about over­com­ing al­co­holism and an eat­ing dis­or­der. Bulimic for 11 years un­til the early 1980s, she now ad­heres to a pro­gram she swears by called GreySheeters Anony­mous. She avoids foods she says she is al­ler­gic to, such as sugar, flour, grains, wheat and corn, but eats fats ( but­ter and cheese) and pro­teins like chicken (with the skin on!). “It’s not a diet, I don’t re­strict, I have won­der­ful, won­der­ful meals,” she says.

Q You have al­ways been hon­est about your per­sonal is­sues, your al­co­holism ( you have been sober for decades) and bu­limia. Why are th­ese sto­ries im­por­tant for you to share?

A I re­ally wrote the book so I could help peo­ple un­der­stand there is a so­lu­tion, and they don’t have to go through all the years of strug­gle I went through. We are ad­dicted to sugar, grains, flour, wheat and junk, and they will in­crease the chance of bu­limia, obe­sity and anorexia. Those (foods) con­tain al­co­hol, and they set up a crav­ing and a com­pul­sion to have more. I don’t have any crav­ings now, and for years that was the prob­lem. I’d get in and out of th­ese di­ets, and sure, they work for a while.

Q You write about your child­hood, that your fa­ther was an al­co­holic and your mother made won­der­ful desserts, and how much you craved sugar. How big an in­flu­ence did your child­hood have on your later ad­dic­tions?

A I think it was fun­da­men­tally in my DNA. They say th­ese things are in­her­ited; there are chem­i­cal im­bal­ances we get, the color of our eyes, how tall we’re go­ing to be. And I think the same thing is true for al­co­holism and ad­dic­tion. And there are peo­ple who may have it in their DNA, but they don’t get hooked. Maybe they don’t eat as much sugar as I did, or maybe they are just sane and sen­si­ble! Dis­ci­pline has very lit­tle to do with it. … It’s not a moral is­sue. There’s noth­ing morally wrong with some­body who drinks too much, nor some­body who eats too much.

Q Why did you want to share in Crav­ings sto­ries of his­tor­i­cal diet gu­rus? Lord By­ron and his food is­sues might sur­prise peo­ple!

A Oh my, he was our first celebrity di­eter, re­ally. ... He was a lit­tle nuts. I al­ways say you have to be care­ful which demons you kill, be­cause one of them may be be­ing able to write po­etry like By­ron.

Q You write about your love of read­ing. What have you read re­cently that you re­ally liked?

A I read a lot of his­tory. I read re­cently a book by John Kelly called Never Sur­ren­der, which is the story of Churchill’s fight with those who wanted to ap­pease Hitler. John Kelly writes bril­liantly about that. That’s what I say: “Never sur­ren­der.” Life is a life­long fight, and you’ve got to be up to it, you’ve got to get in bat­tle gear for all the dif­fer­ent things that hap­pen to you.

Q It looks as if you have a busy touring sched­ule this year. What keeps you go­ing and singing at this point in your ca­reer?

A I’m just so lucky, so blessed. ... I do about 130 shows a year. I get to go all over the world and make TV spe­cials and sing Sond­heim and write al­bums with Ari Hest. I told him, “You’re the one who got me back on the Gram­mys, other­wise they’d have to­tally for­got­ten about me!” I love it.

© 2015 BRAD TRENT

“My life is a tour of all the di­ets I could get my hands on,” singer Judy Collins says.

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