At age 14, Genie Francis took over the role of General Hospital’s Laura. New to acting, she found everything on the set intimidating — including a script that put her character on a diet. “I was mortified,” Genie exclusively told Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “So I did this crazy pre-digestive protein diet and lost seven pounds in a couple of days. That sort of began the crazy relationship with food that I’ve had for my entire life and career.”

Like so many people, Genie, 56, a mother-of-two who has been married for 30 years to actor Jonathan Frakes, tried every fad diet to keep off the pounds. “Dealing with my weight, my body and food has been the most painful part of my life,” confessed the star. “The only thing I knew about food was that I was starving myself or I was overeating. Nothing in between.”

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In 2014, feeling emotionally and physically exhausted, she signed up for Nutrisystem, the program for which she is now a brand ambassador. “I was miserable. I had ruined my metabolism. I had no idea of what a normal day of eating should look like. They taught me how to feed myself instead of starve myself,” Genie, who lost 40 pounds on the plan, told Closer.

She has continued to keep the pounds off by pairing Nutrisystem with daily exercise. “A little walk in the morning gets your blood going. It gives you a more positive attitude and helps with weight loss,” she said. “It worked for me.”

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Nutrisystem has also helped Genie gain more self-confidence. “It was like a surrender moment. I wanted to find [a program] that’s about feeding yourself — where you can eat some damn spaghetti and lose weight!” she revealed to Closer Weekly in a previous interview. “And you can with Nutrisystem, and you do.”

For more on Genie Francis, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!