Cravings: How I Conquered Food by Judy CollinsCravings: How I Conquered Food by Judy Collins

Cravings: How I Conquered Food

byJudy Collins

Hardcover | February 28, 2017

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A no-holds-barred account of folk legend Judy Collins's harrowing struggle with compulsive overeating and of the journey that led her to a solution.

Since childhood Judy Collins has had a tumultuous, fraught relationship with food. Her issues with overeating nearly claimed her career and her life. For decades she thought she simply lacked self-discipline. She tried nearly every diet plan that exists, often turning to alcohol to dull the pain of yet another failed attempt to control her seemingly insatiable cravings.
     Today, Judy knows she suffers from an addiction to sugar and grains, flour and wheat. She adheres to a strict diet of unprocessed foods consumed in carefully measured portions. This solution has allowed her to maintain a healthy weight for years, to enjoy the glow of good health, and to attain peace of mind.
     Alternating between chapters on her life and those of the many diet gurus she has encountered along the way (Atkins, Jean Nidetch of Weight Watchers, Andrew Weil, to name a few), Cravings is the culmination of Judy's genuine desire to share what she's learned—so that no one else has navigate her heart-rending path to recovery.
JUDY COLLINS has recorded more than fifty albums over her illustrious career. With several top-ten hits, Grammy nominations, and gold- and platinum-selling albums to her credit, she has also written several books and is a New York Times bestselling author.
Title:Cravings: How I Conquered FoodFormat:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 7.8 × 5.2 × 1.1 inPublished:February 28, 2017Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385541317

ISBN - 13:9780385541312


Read from the Book

Chapter 1MY JOURNEYThe First Decade—RunningWe ourselves are the battleground . . . All the power of transcendence is within us. Tap into it and you tap into the divine itself.—deng ming-daoI was born in Seattle, Washington, on May 1, 1939. That year, Germany invaded Poland. The Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let Marian Anderson sing at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., so Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR in protest and facilitated Anderson’s concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s The Yearling won the Pulitzer Prize. Maxwell Perkins, who also edited Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, had given her good advice: He told her to write about her own life.My father would read The Yearling to me from his copy in Braille, pausing as he read to tell me, first, that a woman could win the Pulitzer, and, second, that a woman could do anything she set her mind to. He said I should always tell my own story, as she had told hers. Daddy was telling his, on his radio show, to his children, and in his journals.Unfortunately, Mother burned Daddy’s journals after his death.But I always knew what he meant.Daddy and Mommy and I lived in a little house on a hill with a lawn that sloped down to the street, and there are pictures of me after a rare snowstorm going down that hill on a sled. And there I am again, in my pigtails in the summer sun, my naked body splashing in the washtub, a huge smile on my face. Even the black-and-white pictures show that I was blond, with curls and a bright pair of eyes.As a tiny girl, I knew that my father was blind. I tried to make him see me; I talked and danced and sang. I knew he was fighting some kind of battle. But not because he could not see—he seemed to be perfectly at ease with that, even as he felt my face to know what I looked like. He would sometimes say there were advantages to being blind, like being able to read in the dark. No, it was some other battle.I remember running, being excited, moving fast, almost in a blur. I was in a hurry from the start, walking at nine months, trying to catch up before I ever had a clue where I was headed. I knew I had to keep up with my blind, brilliant, talented father and with my mother who was as thin as a whip and always cooking, cleaning, driving my dad to the radio station to do his show, making my bed, braiding my hair, making my clothes on her Singer sewing machine. The Singer caught my imagination and I would hum along with the treadle. It was hurry, hurry, hurry, there was so much to be done, so much to see—I was seeing for my dad and soon I was the eldest of five siblings and running around helping my mother take care of them, changing diapers, cooking, babysitting. I would take a break and then it was back on the track, hurrying to get to somewhere.The only time I really stopped hurrying was when I was singing, playing the piano, reading, or acting in a play. As a child, I was trained in the skills that would be required for me to survive, and to thrive. To shine on the stage, entertaining. What was missing in my training was the “rule book”—how to survive, how to get through life when I was not doing that thing that is my passion, when I was not onstage. Finding out how to live out of the spotlight (and in the spotlight, finally) was something I would have to nearly die to learn.There are pictures of my grandparents at their golden wedding anniversary in 1943 on their porch in Seattle and the wedding cake that I devoured when no one was looking, making a dent in the back of the pristine white layers—a dent I covered over with more frosting. I did not want to be scolded on their special day, sent to my room or made an example of: Look at her, ruining that nice wedding cake.My father, who had been blind from the age of four, was a man who saw more than most men I have known—sensitive, gifted, and inspiring in the way he managed every day of his sightlessness. Photographs of my father and the family crop up in boxes, in letters, in the folders my mother saved, folders of report cards and prom notices and newspaper articles about my father, and me, and the family. Photos of Daddy’s fraternity brother Holden Bowler, who was my godfather and who had a golden voice like my dad. They had been in Phi Gamma Delta at the University of Idaho.Daddy was an alcoholic, born with the genetic disposition to the illness, a Jekyll and Hyde who could turn from charming to terrifying when he was at his worst. He drank whiskey—Johnnie Walker and Four Roses—and like me, he loved sugar and kept chocolate-covered cherries in his sock drawer where he hid what he thought was his secret. All of us children knew they were there, whispering to us from among his tidy, carefully folded socks. We would haunt his sock drawer and his other sugar hiding spots. Over time, I would find them all.He would dig into sweets, pies, cakes, divinity, fudge with the exuberance of an addict and the joy of a satisfied husband. Mother, who did not seem to have our compulsions, was a fabulous baker and cook—as well as chauffeur, friend, and fan of my father’s many talents, even when he was too drunk to notice.My father had a head of beautiful, full, mostly auburn hair tinged only slightly gray, right up to the time he died. He was always working on keeping his weight down. He would mow the lawn barefooted so he could “see” where he was going, getting the feel of the grass under his toes. He sometimes smoked—referring to his cigarettes as “coffin nails”—lecturing all the while about the dangers of smoking. His pipe was always in the pocket of whatever jacket he was wearing, and he packed the bowl with Old Briar cherry-flavored tobacco, though he occasionally smoked a cigar. I thought that a pipe tasted better than any cigarette I ever smoked.Daddy was also a reader, and in our house, books were required possessions. My father read to all of us children from the time we were tiny. He would sit on the edge of my bed and run his fingers over the pages of the big Braille volumes from the Library of Congress—history, mystery, and the Russians—War and Peace, The Double, Chekhov. The books he read were big, weighty tomes that stood many feet high stacked against the wall. He once told me that when he could not sleep he would count the books he had read in his lifetime—hundreds of books, in Braille or on what he referred to as “talking books.” They arrived bound in heavy twine-wound squares. Daddy thought if you had not read Moby-Dick by the time you were seven, there must be something wrong with you.Reading has been a lifelong obsession of mine, a preoccupation. As I read I began to learn what others did to control their demons. There were spiritual routes, and there were pragmatic ones as well. The two, for me, are inextricably linked. I always had a belief in some higher power in the world. I went to church, sang in the choir, loved the hymns. I learned to pray early in my life, wishing our Methodist practices could magically invoke the smoke and mirrors and meditations of the Catholic Church. Bring on Thomas Merton, bring on the saints! I longed for drama!I discovered that there have always been pilgrims in the search for abstinence from food, alcohol, and drugs, as well as relief from despair and depression. There were those who were looking, as I was, for a spiritually uplifted life. And as I got older I began to pray for a different relationship with food and alcohol.I knew early on that we were a family troubled by alcoholism and some kind of addiction to food. There were arguments about the liquor cabinet—Mother would lock it up and Daddy would break the lock in the middle of the night.And I have come to understand that the effects of addiction are not limited to the drinker or the eater but have an impact on the entire family, and sometimes on our friends, too. The denial, the recovery, the relapses—they affect everyone. And I would come to understand that food addiction, like alcoholism, does not play favorites. But at that time I was sure our family had been singled out because of some moral defect of which we had no memory or knowledge. I slowly began to understand that these illnesses strike the rich and the poor, men and women, the infamous and the famous, peasants and royalty, housewives and bankers.I followed in my father’s footsteps, beginning with music and the piano lessons and soon with the passion for alcohol and sugar. I was transfixed by the desserts my mother whipped up, whirling her right arm in a circle until the confection was fluffy. She added crushed pecans to the mix, and I got to lick the spoon and the bowl. From the age of three I knew that nothing could make me happier than devouring sugar in any form, at any time. Best were the fudge and divinity, the pies with meringue or made of apples or pumpkin, the Toll House cookies. Sugar fueled my race through life.It was the beginning of my dance with the devil.Chapter 2LIVES OF THE DIET GURUSLord ByronShe walks in beauty, like the nightOf cloudless climes and starry skies . . .—lord byron, “she walks in beauty”Lord Byron, the English poet born in London on January 22, 1788, knew all about dieting to control his rampant problems with food. The first celebrity dieter had entered the world. From his reputation and the observations of others, he was said to be anorexic as well as bulimic. He was brilliant and world famous at an early age, a part of the Romantic movement, and probably the first pop idol to recommend diets to his fans and friends.His mother was Catherine Gordon and his father was Captain John “Mad Jack” Byron, who ran off to France with his mistress when Byron was a baby. Byron was raised in impoverished circumstances, by a mother he resented, blaming her for the clubfoot with which he was born.When he was ten, Byron was thrust from poverty to nobility when he inherited the English title of 6th Baron Byron of Rochdale on the death of his uncle Lord Byron, known as the “Wicked Lord.” The “Wicked” appellation came as a result of a duel in 1765 in which Baron Byron killed his cousin Baron William Chaworth following an argument about who had more game on his estate. The murder was ruled manslaughter and Baron Byron was given a light fine. He seems to have worn the “Wicked” with pride, but began to fall into madness after the scandal, shooting one of his coachmen to death and depleting his fortune and holdings so that a son he despised would not inherit anything. When Byron the Wicked died, his nephew inherited his uncle’s “legacy of misery,” since all other heirs were deceased.Lord Byron and his mother moved to Newstead Abbey, the Byron family estate in Nottinghamshire. Byron was sent to Harrow, a boarding school where he quickly attained the reputation of being a troubled young man. Yet when he got to Trinity College, Cambridge, Byron was popular on campus, drinking and gambling with zeal. He had earlier fallen in love with his cousin, Mary Chaworth, but while he was at Trinity, she had married another man.Fugitive Pieces, Byron’s premier poetry adventure, was published anonymously in 1806. His dance with the demon of weight obsessions and food compulsion had already begun. Since it was almost unheard of to have your own personal scale, Berry Brothers and Rudd, a London wine-and-cheese shop, allowed stylish men-about-town to weigh themselves on the industrial scales that were suspended by metal chains from the ceiling in the basement of the shop. We can imagine the dank aromas of sides of beef and wheels of Edam and Swiss cheese that were hauled on and off the metal surface on which these young men would lie, probably after disrobing as fully as possible. It must have been an assault to the senses but apparently worth it.From carefully kept records at Berry Brothers we learn that in 1806, Byron weighed 182 pounds. By 1811 he was down to 126 pounds, a loss of nearly 70 pounds. Beau Brummell, the “English Dandy,” made forty visits to Berry Brothers to weigh himself. Usually in deep debt, Brummell was a fashion icon who abandoned the upper-class dress of the English and created the shirt-and-tie model that continues to the present time. Over the course of his trips to Berry Brothers, Brummel’s weight went from 168 down to 140.At Cambridge Lord Byron wore heavy wool sweaters in order to sweat (and probably to hide his girth) and his fans followed suit, wearing heavy woolen sweaters and copying his diet of vinegar, rice, and potatoes; his habit of smoking cigars to curb his appetite; and his practice of eating “scantily” and then gorging on huge meals. Byron also started the fashion of taking huge doses of magnesia—the primary ingredient of many laxatives—to control his weight.At twenty, Byron began his love affair with Greece during his Grand Tour after graduating from university. In a letter to his half sister, Augusta Leigh, he wrote: “If I am a poet . . . the air of Greece has made me one.”Upon his return to the British Isles, his long poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage was published. The poem was about a lost soul wandering through the world and ostensibly about Byron’s journeys through Portugal, Greece, and the Aegean, and the first printing sold out in three days. “I awoke one morning and found myself famous,” he would say.Amid writing poetry and fighting in wars, he was also dieting and publicly declaiming to all who would listen his culinary discoveries, which must have been spread by word of mouth, if you will forgive the pun, as I can find no evidence that Byron published anything about his diets, only that they were passed on by those who knew him to those who followed him. It is said that he would purge after eating large meals. He was famous for the “potatoes and vinegar diet,” which he used and recommended to others for weight loss or weight maintenance. He was known as being “mad, bad and dangerous,” as madness was considered in those times to be the cause of homosexuality.

Editorial Reviews

“Collins's radiant memoir shines a light on her almost deadly struggles while vividly celebrating her new life free from cravings and sharing hope with everyone who suffers from food addiction."—Publishers Weekly, starred review“Judy Collins has looked at life from both sides: as an incredibly successful singer and as a person tormented by addiction—to alcohol, substances, and, worst of all, food. In Cravings her candid recounting of her long and ultimately successful struggle, and of the insights she gained from various diet gurus, will give comfort and guidance to the many people trying to improve their relationships with food.” —Andrew Weil, author of 8 Weeks to Optimum Health and Eating Well for Optimum Health   “Cravings is a detailed history of recovery and the power of the life force. It’s not only the story of addiction and recovery in our culture but also an inspiring autobiography of one passionate individual finding a way of living that radiates health. Judy Collins is a beacon of hope for us all.” —Erica Jong, author of Fear of Flying   “Judy Collins has enjoyed many triumphs in her long and glorious career as a singer, but this memoir tells the tale of a deeper and darker—and in many ways more difficult—triumph over the twin demons of alcoholism and food disorders. Brave in its candor and clear-sighted in its solutions, full of heartbreak but also tremendously uplifting, Cravings spotlights a path of spiritual and physical renewal for everyone.” —Ron Chernow, author of Alexander Hamilton   "Blessed with an angelic voice and a shining public persona, Judy Collins fought private demons that made her privileged life a living hell. In Cravings, she rips the veil from her darkest secrets, revealing her decades-long struggle with deadly eating disorders. Detailing her personal journey, she points the way to sanity and health."  —Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way