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This Family Went Plant-Based and Lost 250 lbs — Here’s the Plan That Can Help You Too

Plus, easy and delicious recipes to get you started

It’s no surprise that eating more vegetables can help you lose weight. And while the dose of vitamins we get from them is great for our overall health, one component may come out on top when it comes to weight loss: fiber. In fact, a plant-based diet and fiber is study proven to nourish a healthy gut and keep us feeling full for hours, making reaching those weight loss goals easier. That was the case for 50-year-old mom of four Stefanie Ignoffo, whose whole family got involved in her plant-based journey. Together, they shed 250 pounds! Keep reading to discover how a plant-based diet and fiber revitalized their health, and how you can get the benefits too.

Why try a plant-based diet and fiber

In a study by George Washington University nutrition pro Neal Barnard, MD, a whole-foods, plant-based diet beat even the lauded Mediterranean diet for weight loss and overall health. That’s because plant-based eaters get far more fiber and a far greater variety of fiber, giving a huge boost to trillions of ‘good’ bacteria in the GI tract. “These bacteria act as a powerful bonus organ that helps every part of you function optimally,” he says. In fact, digestion, blood sugar, inflammation, brain function and much more improve. And while 93% of us don’t get enough fiber, going plant-based reverses the problem immediately.

Further evidence suggests that plant-based eating improves gut bacteria in a way that targets the midsection. Indeed, in one test, volunteers melted “up to seven measuring cups’ worth of belly fat in 16 weeks without limiting portions,” says the doc. “As plant-based eating makes your gut healthier, amazing things follow.”

Related: Plant-Based Diet Twist Can Double Your Ability to Lose Weight: Stanford Study

Plant-based diet and fiber success story: The Ignoffo Family

The Ignoffo family who lost a combined 250 lbs thanks to a plant-based diet and fiber
The Ignoffo Family

“The procedure was a success, but when your husband fell, it caused fairly extensive nerve damage,” the surgeon told Stefanie Ignoffo. “It’ll be six months before he can use his arm again.” The Illinois mom of three felt panic spread through her body. John, a self-employed mechanical engineer, needed his arm to work.

This is our family’s ninth surgery this year with no insurance, she thought, her heart pounding. Six months with zero income means…we’ll lose our house. Stefanie — who’d carried up to 278 pounds on her 5’2″ frame — was in such bad shape, she was considering getting a walker and couldn’t even manage a part-time job. What were they going to do?

How Stefanie discovered plant-based diets and fiber

The day went by in a blur, but eventually reality hit Stefanie: There’s no money for the knee replacements the doctor says I need. But if I lose weight, everything might get better — my knees, the GI trouble, migraines, high blood pressure, fatigue. Then I could find work. Of course, she’d tried diet after diet her whole life. Why would this be different?

Meanwhile, her animal-loving daughter Hailie, 15, wanted to start a plant-based diet. Stefanie had researched to see if it was safe. Surprisingly, studies suggested it might be the world’s healthiest diet.

Later, when John was discharged, they hit the drive-thru and headed home. Everyone was eating burgers and fries when Stefanie cued up a documentary she’d been meaning to watch. It was all about plant-based eating. By the end, Stefanie was stunned that even 18-year-old Zakary was on board.

Then, Stefanie hit the internet and found great resources, including Dr. Neal Barnard’s 21-Day Kickstart plan with family-friendly meal ideas like veggie-and-hummus wraps and chili. The plant-based diet and fiber seemed doable. She boxed up the family’s processed food, cheese and meat to give to friends. Sound intimidating? Try starting with a 30-day plant based diet plan.)

A family experiment

The Ignoffos’ first plant-based meal was pasta marinara and salad. “I read we should really fill up so we won’t be hungry later and start thinking about our old foods,” she said. When everyone dug in, they seemed happy. As the week went on, she offered oatmeal, stir-fries, rice and beans. (Learn more about oatmeal for weight loss.)

Not everything was a hit. “Let’s hang in there until we find favorite new meals,” she said after a so-so veggie loaf. Her 13-year-old, Izabelle, chimed in: “Can you make us pancakes?” All the kids nodded. So Stefanie found a recipe, and it was all smiles at their next breakfast. Especially for Stefanie and John. Both felt less pain and were sleeping better. Even more, Stefanie was already down 12 pounds.

The family gently settled into their new habits. Once, Zak decided to get regular pizza with friends, “but I felt sick afterward,” he reported. As he said it, it occurred to Stefanie that her own constant tummy trouble — reflux, bloat, IBS — was gone. After years of urgent bathroom trips and meds that didn’t work, she was healed.

Related: This Genius 50-50 Plate Hack Is Helping Women Lose Weight Effortlessly

Stefanie now, 102 lbs slimmer

Stephanie Ignoffo, who lost 102 lbs on a plant-based diet
Stephanie IgnoffoMatt Mason Photography

Before long, Stefanie tried on a size-smaller pair of jeans, and they were too big. Down three sizes in three weeks, she talked to her doctor. “Is this normal?” she asked. The doctor laughed. “It’s better than normal,” he said. “You don’t need blood-pressure meds anymore!” By the six-week mark, John, noticeably leaner, had regained the use of his arm — four months ahead of schedule.

“After a while, I was bouncing off the walls with energy. I tried going for a walk,” Stefanie recalls. “I went a whole mile. My knees felt great, and I was so proud.” Soon, the whole Ignoffo family was hiking together. After 10 months, John had shed 45 pounds and Zak had lost 80. Altogether, Stefanie dropped a whopping 102 pounds. Today, the family runs Plantspiration, a nonprofit that supports folks who want to use plants to get healthy.

“My husband and I are both off all medications. All my GI issues are gone. And I really feel in my heart I’ve set my kids up for the best life they can live,” she says. “Anyone out there looking for an inexpensive way to feel amazing, my advice is: Eat your plants off!”

Related: New Twist on Whole30 Is Helping Women Lower Cholesterol, Eliminate Pain & Lose Serious Weight

Plant-based diet and fiber-rich meals to get started

To get results like Stefanie and her family, build sittings around whole plant foods while avoiding added oil. Go for generous portions since the more fiber you get early on, the faster you’ll reboot your gut bacteria and begin to crave healthy foods. Busy schedule? We’ve got quick-make meal ideas for you right here! Always consult your doctor when trying a new plan.


Enjoy protein-rich quinoa hot or cold (make it yourself or buy already cooked) with nut milk and fruit.


In a whole-grain tortilla, roll oil-free hummus, veggies and sun-dried tomatoes (softened in hot water).


Choose your favorite fruit and make colorful kebabs; serve with any flavor soy or coconut yogurt as dip.

Dinner: Quick Lasagna

Plant-based lasagna

Dr. Barnard and the Ignoffos love this tasty dish. Makes 8 servings.


  • 9 lasagna noodles
  • 24 oz. silken tofu
  • ¾ cup cashews
  • 2 tsp. dried basil
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 24 oz. pasta sauce


  1. Cook noodles.
  2. Blend tofu, nuts, basil and juice.
  3. Spread ¼ cup sauce in baking pan; add 3 noodles and ½ tofu mixture. Repeat.
  4. Add remaining noodles and sauce.
  5. Bake 20–30 min.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

For more on plant-based diets for weight loss, check out these stories:

This Genius 50-50 Plate Hack Is Helping Women Lose Weight Effortlessly

These Viral Baked Oats Are Packed With a Filling Fiber That Makes Weight Loss Easy + Delicious

Plant-Based Diet Twist Can Double Your Ability to Lose Weight: Stanford Study

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