GH’s Genie Francis On Losing Weight And Gaining Confidence
Soap Opera Digest: When I spoke with you upon your return to GH, you said that you had been a little down and depressed after you left the show last year. When we have moments like that in life, it can affect —
Genie Francis: Everything!
Digest: Yes, including how we feel about taking care of ourselves — and I was curious to know how that period of time was for you on that front.
Francis: Yes. I got very, very depressed. It lasted for maybe, I don’t know, three months. It helped me a lot to hear how my fans responded on Twitter and things like that, and watching that unfold made me feel a lot better, every day. But, you know, I am an emotional eater and I always will be, no matter what I do. So, yeah, I did a little [emotional] eating. And then I fought my way down. I still have a little further to go before I feel like I am fully back, but luckily for me, I do have the Nutrisystem family, that net, to fall back into, which is so good. And I like th program. It’s really good, it’s tasty food, and it’s just easy.
Digest: When you fall off the wagon, so to speak, with healthy eating, do you start eating food that isn’t good for you, or are you more of an overeater?
Francis: Oh, easily, I’m not a volume eater, I’m a sugar eater. The sweets just somehow confort me and make me feel like I’m going to be okay. Of course, that only works in the moment, and then later on or the next day, I feel like I want to do. So, it’s a nasty, nasty, vicious cycle to be in. And I get that the relationship with food can be painful. It has been for me, unfortunately, for most of my life. One of the things that is a fix for me if I’ve done badly the night before is to get on the treadmill. That changes my attitude, as well as burning off a little bit of my bad eating from the night before. I also have a time of day when I eat bad. I’m good all day — I’m really, really good. The witching hour for me can be anywhere from 4 to about 8. I don’t really know what that is! But it definitely feels that way for me. So getting through that period of time really is the ticket for me.
Digest: When you got back on track with your eating, what did you do?
Francis: I went right back to the basics of Nutrisystem. I went right back to using their foods, because it takes all of the stress away for me. I like to explain to people that I’ve had to quit many things in my life, unfortunately [laughs]. I am a person who likes to use things to make me feel better, and a lot of those other things can be very easy because you just, hopefully, give them up and they don’t come near your life ever agin. When it comes to food, you take your tiger out of the case three times a day and take it for a walk. That’s hard. So, for me, if I get my Nutrisystem, if I get all my meals from them when I want to reduce [my weight], then the tiger is back in the cage, because I don’t have to figure out what to do — I don’t have to take responsibility for what I’m doing, essentially! I let somebody else decide. Somebody else is going to figure this out of me, and they’ve got lots of people over there figuring it out! I let them figure it out and do my thinking of me, and that works for me. I used to do things like the paleo diet and God knows what else. I’ve done everything! And when I first saw the food plan for this diet, for Nutrisystem, I looked at it and I said, “This will not work. There is no way that I can do this and lose weight.” And I got very disheartened because I thought, “Oh, this isn’t going to happen.” I actually put it off; I put off doing it. And then I thought, “Ah, what the hell, I’ll do two weeks.” And I lost two pounds a week, which is really a good, fast loss. And I ate a lot of food — three meals and two snacks a day. So it’s really interesting because once you know that, once you know you can eat well, enjoy your food, not feel hungry, except for your next meal, why would you ever go back to doing those starvation things? Okay, when I do Paleo, I lose two pounds a week, when I do Nutrisytem I lose two pounds a week. So, why would I do that to myself again? No reason!
Digest: What do you think you would be doing had you not started Nutrisystem?
Francis: What I would have done is done the “Starve, starve, starve — oh, my God, I’m dying.” And then it’s right into the cookie jar. That’s what I would have done! And it’s a bad thing because what they explained to me at Nutrisystem is that when you do that starving thing, your metabolism actually slows down. So, you’re not burning as efficiently as you do when you eat the three meals a day and the two snacks, because your body is always getting food; your body can count on that next meal, so your body says, “Okay, I’m going to burn calories!” It’s interesting how that works. I mean, it has been really based on the glycemic index and portion control, so these things work. They are tried-and-true ways of dealing with weight loss. It’s these new, fad things that mess you up.
Digest: Do you stock your kitchen differently now that you’re on Nutrisystem?
Francis: I know what my buttons are — well, sugar is really the only thing. And so, initially, when I’m starting to rein it in again and I want to lose weight, I get that completely out of my house, because I can eat the other foods, really, without being triggered. So, that’s been my approach. The nice thing about Nutrisystem is that they have a ton of snacks, and they have savory snacks, so I can stick with the savory snacks rather than getting the ice cream bars. It’s best for me to know what my button foods are and to stay away from them. Peanut butter is another one. I love peanut butter! But it is a button food, so that’ll go out of the house.
Digest: And what do you do when you’re eating in a restaurant?
Francis: I go back to the way I’ve been taught by Nutrisystem, which is essentially, I get a protein and I get a vegetable and I will have a little bit of starch, but I won’t have a big serving. I’ll get a protein that’s about the size of the palm of my hand, I’ll have a vegetable or even two vegetables, a cup and a half total, and if there’s some cooked potatoes, I might have a little piece of it, a wedge, but I don’t go crazy. And I eat salads. Always salads. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t have salad.
Digest: When you returned to work at GH, did you have any anxiety about being on camera again?
Francis: Yes, I did. I had a lot of anxiety. But I started to get my confidence back in about five or six days.
Digest: You’ve spoken candidly about how much the pressure to be thin in Hollywood affected you when you were a young woman just starting out in the business. What is your relationship to that today?
Francis: It’s funny; I just recently said to some people, “You can’t body-shame me.” You know, things change. It’s 2018; you cannot do these things. It’s not okay! But I never would have said that when I was younger. All I thought was, “Whatever you think about me, or whatever you say about me, is who I really am, and you are right and I am wrong.” And I don’t feel that way anymore. I absolutely don’t. And I feel good the way I am. I like my body. I’m happy with what’s going on with me. You know, I fluctuate those 10 pounds, like every woman does. But as I was saying before, my confidence came back, and not only that — you know, I am more than just my body! My audience really has seen me every which way, and they haven’t left me.
Digest: Did you ever feel like the GH audience felt differently about you when you were heavier?
Francis: I definitely didn’t feel good about myself — but my audience never gave me any hard time. I never heard a word about, “Jeez, you need to lose weight.” Never. Never! I have a lot of love from these fans, I really do. I’m very fortunate in that. Very, very fortunate.
Digest: You’ve told us before that you can trace your own panic about your weight back to when you were a teenager and GH had Laura go on a diet. Did you feel like you had to be private about your struggles back then?
Francis: When I was 14? Certainly I wouldn’t [have spoken out about it] at 14; I just wanted to die! I was mortified! Even when I was 19, no, I really didn’t want to talk about it. I wasn’t secure enough in myself to talk about that. But I am now! I started to do it because I started to feel like, “What do I offer society? Doctors cure people, soldiers go out and save the country — what do I do, what do I offer people?” And I felt like my personal experience was the best thing I had to offer. You know, standing up in front of everybody and telling someone that I’m so great and so perfect and my life is perfect and look how fabulous I am is just a bunch of b.s.! And it’s just not me. I would rather share with people who I am. Also, I get so much love from these people that I feel like my gift back to them is my honesty.
America’s Sweetheart: By the time Luke (Anthony Geary) and Laura, pictured in 1980, became a cultural phenomenon, Francis was struggling with her self-image and her weight. At the time, she notes, “I wasn’t secure enough in myself to talk about that. But I am now!”
So Emotional: Francis, pictured with Nicolas Bechtel (Spencer) in 2017, admits that she did some emotional eating when GH took her off contract.
Shake It Up: The actress at home with a Nutrisystem shake. The program “takes all of the stress away for me,” she says.