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Soleil Moon Frye Opens Up About Her Struggle to Lose Weight After Giving Birth to Baby No. 4

Soleil Moon Frye has made an epic body comeback after giving birth to her fourth baby in 2016.

On Monday the former Punky Brewster star celebrated her 42nd birthday — along with losing 42 lbs. after giving birth to her youngest child, son Story,2.

Her weight loss journey has not been easy, Frye told PEOPLE at her birthday celebration on Wednesday at The Viceroy hotel in Santa Monica, California.

“After my third baby, I was really struggling and I did not bounce back,” she says. “After the first and second, it was a little bit easier, but I had the third baby and it was four months, five months, six months later.”

She adds: “I’m not somebody that has a baby and then four weeks later is wearing the cut off shorts and the crop tops.”

And after welcoming her fourth child, Frye says it took even longer to get back into shape. At one point, she was mistaken for being pregnant when she had already given birth.

“I remember walking into a store and someone asking me when I was due. That was always a great feeling to have, you know,” she says jokingly. “They wanted to know when the baby was coming and I said, ‘The baby was actually born six months ago!’ So, I just wasn’t feeling my best and certainly like the best version of myself.”

And while she acknowledges that every woman’s postpartum experience is different, hers was rough at times. “I felt down,” she says. “I was trying to exercise by myself and it just wasn’t really happening.”

RELATED: Soleil Moon Frye Is Back in a Swimsuit After Baby No. 4: “I Feel Really Good Right Now!”

Frye, who also shares daughters Jagger Joseph Blue, 10; Poet Sienna Rose, 12; and son Lyric Sonny Roads, 4; with husband Jason Goldberg, says she finally realized she didn’t need to “constantly project this happy, perfect image.”

She opened up about sharing details from her life on social media. “I noticed that when I shared with my social community moments that were very real and scary and imperfect, my community was so supportive,” she says. “I think so often when we go on social media and we see these images of everybody looking so happy and everything looks so glossy, that we start to sometimes feel badly about ourselves.”

“I think so often we don’t share enough of our truth, and so for me, a lot of it was just also coming to terms with being honest,” Frye continues. “When you do have those hard days, when somebody asks how you’re doing, you can say, ‘I’m okay, but you know, it’s been a tough day.’

And that includes trying “not to be so hard on myself” when it comes to her weight.

“I think for a long time in my younger years, I was harder on myself. People always joke around and say, ‘You’re rainbows and unicorns.’ I am a very happy person, but definitely, we all have our struggles,” she says.

While Frye initially thought losing the baby weight would be impossible, she managed to reach her goals with the help of Nutrisystem — and admits to learning a few things along the way, like the importance of not depriving herself.

“If I’m feeling down and want to go pick up a pint of ice cream or pour chocolates in my popcorn, then I’m going to do it,” Frye says. “I think that allowing yourself the freedom to not be so hard one yourself [is key]. I think when you get so regimented, at least for me — if I get too crazy in my head, then it becomes a downward spiral. I have to embrace the messiness, the imperfections, the good days, the bad days.”

As for how she’s feeling now at 42, Frye says, “really, really terrific.”

“I feel younger in a lot of ways than I did, but with the wisdom of age,” she says. “I love having the knowledge of being 42 but feeling great and younger than ever.”

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