Challenge Yourself Blog: Cindy Cervantes

Cynthia Cervantes, 33, is a first-grade teacher in Austin, Texas. Cindy is getting married in May and is on a mission to lose weight to look fantastic on her big day. She's 5'4" and weighs 165 pounds. Last year, Cindy lost more than 20 pounds but has hit a weight-loss plateau. She's hoping the Self Challenge will get her over the hump. This is her blog.

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Week 12 -- I'm a Card-Carrying Mrs.

Well, this past Saturday, May 19, 2007, Marco and I said our "I do's" after five years of courtship. We ending up changing our plans a little and had our ceremony at our reception site so that both sides of the family could attend. Everything was beautiful and it was wonderful to have so many loving and caring friends and family members present. We said our vows against a backdrop of lighted votive candles. It couldn't have been more perfect.

I can honestly say that many of the details of the day seem like such a blur except for the crystal clear moment when we looked into each others eyes and publicly professed our vows and our love for each other. I was hoping I wouldn't cry as much as I did, but being the last living hopeless romantic, I sure used a lot of tissue that day. The food was great, I ate cake, and we danced to our song "Solamente Una Vez." As soon as I get some digital photos, I will send them right away. I've never felt more beautiful or more self-confident. I've never seen Marco look at me the way he did that day! He had tears in his eyes when I walked up and joined him. To be honest, I couldn't wait for my dad to hand me over.

I'm so happy to have participated in the Self Challenge! Everyone gave me compliments about my weight and how good I looked. That made it all worthwhile. As of my wedding, I was officially at 145 pounds, a weight loss of 20 pounds!

Well, we haven't gone on a honeymoon because we both have to move out of our apartments and into a new one this week, but we are looking forward to that later this summer.

More news later!

-- Cindy Villasenor

Week 10 -- Feeling Good

I feel good, nah nah nah nah nah nah nah, I knew that I would....

Yes, if there was a song to how I'm feeling that would be it! It has been a great few days! I had a wonderful time at my bridal shower. Marco and I decided on a very family-friendly couples' shower. We had a fabulous time with our closest friends. My bridesmaids, Esther Arreola and Yuki Miyamoto, are the best a girl could ever ask for.

As far as the food, we were smart and had some Texas barbecue with all the fixin's' catered in. And yes, I did have some. I planned ahead and knew what and how much I would eat. I stuck to chicken and beans and had half of slice of shower cake. Treats like cake should be for special occasions, and my shower was definitely a special occasion!

Monday night, Marco and I had a date night. No wedding planning, just he and I enjoying a Flamenco performance. It was a blast.

I'm happy to say I've added another pound to my weight loss! Body fat percentages keep going down, lean muscle mass keeps going up! I've also been eating vegetables three times a day. I'm waking up earlier and cooking breakfast. I'm eating omelets made out of one egg and two egg whites mixed with spinach and one slice of Canadian bacon. Sometimes I'll add a slice of Swiss cheese. I usually have a slice of toast and a cup of milk on the side. This keeps me full till my morning snack of or yogurt with 1/4 ounce of slivered almonds.

Lunch is chicken with vegetables and a roll or a slice of light bread. Dessert is a piece of fruit, usually an apple.

My afternoon snacks are sometimes string cheese with about 10 almonds or an apple with 1 STP. of almond butter. This snack is crucial -- it gives me my energy for evening workouts.

Dinner is usually a lean protein like chicken, salmon, or with a salad or vegetables. No grains -- it's something my trainer and I are trying out to get me over my weight loss plateau. For dessert I can have a Healthy Cow fudge , 50 calories. Yummy -- I look forward to that all day!

I've been really lucky that Marco is so supportive of me. He runs at 5 in the morning before going in to work. Since I workout in the evenings, he gets home early and cooks a really healthy dinner for us. I'm so lucky to be marrying such a sweetheart! He even sticks to the no grains just like me.

I'm looking forward to kick boxing tonight and dance tomorrow. I'm going to start training with Will in the mornings -- another new thing we want to try to get that scale moving!

Week 9 -- I'm Still Here!

Hi guys! Sorry you haven't heard from me for a few days. It's been quite hectic the past two weeks. The wedding is only three weeks away and I'm starting to feel that adrenaline rush!

I've had a hard time dealing with the fact that the weight hasn't dropped off as quickly as I've hoped. I made some bad food choices last weekend due to poor planning. I know never to go anywhere without a healthy snack, i.Ed. apples, string cheese, almonds in my purse. Somehow this weekend, I just didn't plan. We were in San Antonio this past weekend visiting the church where we'll be getting married (we were trying to decide on decorations), and stayed way past my lunchtime.

Believe it or not, I'm really leaning towards no or minimal decorations. The church is a beautiful Spanish mission, and I believe it's so rustic, it doesn't need further adornment. Kind of like a perfect rose or gardenia. Anyhow, back to the eating. We went to a Mexican restaurant and instead of ordering the grilled chicken (which is available on about 99% of the menus I've seen), I ordered enchiladas. To look at it on the bright side, I only ate one of the two enchiladas plus... a flour tortilla. I'm only human.

To my credit, I've actually worked out 6 out of 7 days over the last two weeks. Maybe that's why I felt I could have that enchilada. Working really hard during the week doesn't give you license to throw dietary caution to the wind on the weekends. I know it but why do I make those poor choices? My trainer Will and I have been keeping a really close eye on my diet, we're trying to tweak things. I think I was eating way too many grains. Even healthy grains can get you in trouble if you have too much. I'm trying to be so much more conscious about my eating. I've also switched to light bread and have been using half egg, half egg substitute. I'm even incorporating veggies into breakfast so that I can have three servings a day. I'm also trying to have seafood twice a week.

I'll weigh in today and see where I stand as I start month 3. I'm still motivated and I know the Challenge is making a big difference in inches, lean muscle and a nice reduction in body fat percentage. I'm so happy I'm doing this. I've never worked so hard for something before and I'm really proud.

P.S. I reread my "tips" and I'll be sure to follow the one about not looking back and getting right back into the game. Also, this afternoon we're throwing a baby shower for one of my colleagues. There will be cake, cookies, chips, etc. I've already got a game plan. I went and bought an angel food cake. This way I'll still participate and not blow my diet.

Tomorrow is my wedding shower -- I'll be sure to send pictures. I'm already making plans for what I'll eat then too. We're ordering barbecue and I'll make sure to watch portions, stay away from the brisket, and fill up on veggies instead of potato salad. I also plan to workout before the shower. I might just have to have a small slice of cake. After all, you only get your bridal shower once.

April 19 -- Gonna walk down the aisle in 30 days! OK, now I'm starting to get antsy. Everyone is asking if I'm nervous, if I'm jittery, if I'm stressed.

"Well," I'd like to say, "I am now!" But, of course I just smile and say "of course not!" I mean, what is this obsession with Bridezillas? Even my mom is asking how I'm doing. Can't a girl just be normal when she gets married anymore? When Marco and I starting planning a wedding, we said no circus acts, no craziness, just you and me getting married.

Of course, it's been impossible not to get dragged into the vortex of the wedding industry. I mean, it's really crazy, but we try to stay focused on the fact that it's the beginning of our marriage, not some sort of Hollywood production. That said, I'm really excited to be getting married. Just kinda wish we would've eloped somewhere far away. I mean, my marriage won't depend on the color of the tablecloths.

Getting back to the Challenge, I'm winning a slow battle with the scale. Down another pound! And up four smiley faces so far this week! My diet is going great -- I'm measuring like a maniac but it works!

Friday the 13th -- Get What Ya Came For

Yep, it's day 47 of the challenge and I'm still here. Haven't given up yet. In fact, I think I'm feeling pretty good about it. Today's blog title is a shout out to Ena my kickboxing/dance class instructor. I know I talk about Ena quite a bit but she makes taking those classes so darn fun. That's why her class is sooo packed with sweaty bodies of all ages, body sizes, and ethnicities. That's why I (who am not known for being early to things) arrive 30 minutes early so I can carve out a spot in the front row.

She always says things like "Get whatcha came here for," and "Yes, you can!" and my favorite: "Shake it like you do when you're alone and nobody is watchin'." I'm definitely a "class girl." I like very intense physical stuff. I really get motivated by the energy of everyone in the room. Being there and seeing what my body can do makes me feel -- don't laugh -- like "an athlete." Not an Olympic athlete, just my own version of athlete, taking my body as far as it can go. And yes, last night at Body Jam I got what I went there for -- I came home dripping in sweat and I normally don't sweat. As for the fitness equipment, I only do the treadmill if I have to and I have some great music to listen to -- Justin, Missy Elliot, Beyonce, Shakira, Gwen Stefani and anything hip-hop.

I had a very emotional week. Marco was out of town and I was really sad about my brother and his kids not coming to my wedding so I had to stay busy. As of this afternoon, I will have five smiley faces on my calendar for this week. That means five workouts! Yeah, me!! My pre-Challenge response would've been to eat a brownie and a cappuccino.

Hopefully I'll see a change on the scale, if not, that's OK. It's not all about the scale!

April 11 -- Thanks Michelle and Teri!

Thanks to Michelle Lee, I've now torn my Month 2 calendar out of this month's issue of Self and placed it on the wall next to my computer. Being a teacher, I get a gold star for pounds lost and a happy face for working out. I'm color coding and using blue to signify strength-training sessions.

My students are checking it too to keep me on task. They always look to see what I'm having for lunch to make sure it's healthy! That calendar is now the last thing I see when I leave for the day. I want to make sure I can place a happy face the next day so I'm motivated to stick with my workout plans, no matter how tired or stressed I am at the end of the day.

Thanks to Teri, I'm now focusing on all of the good things I'm doing -- eating healthy, working out. I'm trying to banish the negative thoughts. Sometimes, you want to get instant results but it just doesn't work that way. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of planning.

April 10 -- The Scale Is Not the Boss of Me

I have now officially declared war on that scale! It has refused to budge for the last few weeks. It's been hard to accept but I took a long look at diet and the activity I had for the last couple of weeks. I did decrease my workouts (I had some wedding planning to do), and I think I was actually on the lower end of my calorie goal. That's a first!

So, what should I do when that scale keeps smirking at me ? I bring on my "A" game. I'm increasing my workouts this week and I'll be watching my diet like a hawk! I've increased my vegetable intake and I'm confident it will help.

On the plus side:

1. My lean muscle mass keeps going up every week!

2 .My body fat goes down every week! Okay small increments but they mean something!

3. I also feel like I look better and I have much more energy.

4. Those squats really work!

5. My clothes are a little looser.

6. AND a 1st grader in another classroom totally made my day -- she told me I was looking skinny!

Mind you, skinny is not a term I've heard associated with myself since I was a gawky 13-year-old. She must be looking at me through rose-colored glasses but it felt so good!

Bridesmaid update: We have filled our spot. Victoria Beltran, Marco's cousin (more like a baby sister than cousin) will be honoring us by being in our wedding. We're so excited!

T -40 days ... YIKES!

April 4 -- Tips From a Challenger

1. Write down everything you eat! You can either write it on paper or track it online at You'll be surprised how much you are really eating. It really keeps you from reaching for that chocolate chip cookie when you know you've been healthy all day.

2. Eat your veggies! How can you not? It's spring! Eat things you've never tried before. I'm now in love with radicchio. Veggies are one area I was falling behind in. I've started increasing my veggies this new month and I feel that it's making a difference.

3. Drink water all day. This is another thing I wasn't doing. As a teacher you can't run to the bathroom every five minutes, however, you do find a way to get there. I feel energized. For those who don't like water, use the Crystal Light powder for water. They have tons of flavors.

4. Experiment in the kitchen. One of my greatest passions is cooking and baking. I think that is partially what got me to this weight. I have been re-making my recipes (especially that delicious Mexican and Italian food) and it's working. I make sure to measure my olive oil and not drizzle freely. Using spices and herbs really jazzes up your food so that you don't feel like you're eating low fat. My next challenge -- lower fat brownies.

5. Try to find ways to make food prep easier. For example, I buy prewashed, prepackaged salads and veggies. I also buy rotisserie chicken and precooked chicken breasts. I spend a little more but the time I save is so worth it.

6.Eat half of a portion when you eat out at a restaurant. Marco and I are now each ordering a salad and then sharing an entree. Guess what? We don't even miss that extra entree.

7.Do your cardio. You feel so much better. Even if you only do 20 minutes, those 20 minutes mean something.

8. Don't be so hard on yourself. If you fall off the workout/diet wagon, get right back on and don't look back.

April 3 -- I'm Only Human

Week 5 was wonderful until Friday afternoon. I seriously don't know what took hold of me. Granted, the weather was as crazy as always -- five days straight of downpours, thunderstorms, flash floods, but that was no excuse to ditch my workout with Will. I called him and left him a rambling message about bad weather on his cell phone and headed straight to the nail salon.

I think I just needed a break -- a manicure, pedicure break. Much better than a brownie and hot fudge sundae break if you ask me. Boy did it feel good. It was good for the body and soul. Girly girls will understand me completely. I think all of the stress of the wedding kind of got to me that day. You always feel like you're forgetting to do something, or call someone, or whatever.

I redeemed myself Saturday morning. After a super-healthy breakfast of oatmeal with a sprinkle of walnuts and wheat germ, Marco and I took a three-mile walk/run bright and early before we left for San Antonio to take our engagement pictures. He even gave me a new nickname, "little gazelle." If you ask me I'm nowhere near as graceful as a gazelle when I run, but I appreciated the comment nonetheless.

My lesson learned: Sometimes you just have to listen to yourself and give yourself what you need. Sometimes it's a pampering session.

March 29 -- Feel the Burn!

Wow, month two got off to a great start! My trainer Will really took it up a notch on Monday. My only consolation was that I made him sweat too. I take Tuesdays and Sundays off from working out. I normally work late and need a day to just come home and do laundry, dust, etc.

Wednesday and Thursday nights belong to Ena. She teaches kickboxing on Wednesdays and Body Jam on Thursday nights. I take Ena's class and always have a blast because nobody makes you want to try harder or sweat more. On the weekends I try to "connect with nature." That means taking a hike or long 3-5 mile walk. I just realized my wedding is a little over one and a half months away! I'm so excited and so lucky to be marrying Marco! This weekend we're going to San Antonio to take our engagement pictures. I'll send some as soon as I can.

Week 4: Bootylicious!

Michelle is "Bringing Sexy Back," Terri is running a 5K, and I'm feeling quite "bootylicious." Sorry Beyonce, there's a new sheriff in town, thanks to all those squats and lunges I'm doing. Maybe it's just my imagination, but I think my fiance Marco has been checking me out a lot more since I started the Challenge. Hmm, I think he thinks I'm pretty all over again! NIIICE!

Well last week was a little nuts. I stayed late at work cleaning my room and trying to put it in some semblance of order for national TV! One unknown fact about teaching is that it means tons of paper work -- whether it is student work or administrative stuff, you can quickly get lost in the quicksand of it all. I have to say, I was so touched by all of the offers to help me work on my room. Thank you Kathryn, Jeannette, Martin, and Luz! You guys rock!

Also, thanks to everyone who got here at 6 a.m. to support me that day! I've never seen my kids so happy or so exited. One of my students told me that Friday was "the best day of his life!" That's pretty powerful coming from a six year old. Much fun was had by all. I enjoyed meeting Sam, Anthony, Lucy and Liz. They were just as sweet as I had imagined!

Needless to say, it was hard getting back to work, but the kids went right into science as if nothing had happened. They are amazing -- I've got the best kids ever!

On Saturday, Marco and I took advantage of the beautiful weather in Austin and decided to take our workout outdoors. We drove around and figured out a cool three-mile loop that is both scenic and challenging. Austin is very hilly. We really worked up a sweat. Next weekend, we're planning to go to Town Lake to work out on the hike and bike trail. That trail is the crown jewel of Austin as it winds around the lake. I'm lucky to live in such a beautiful city. It's even more beautiful now that spring has sprung. I don't know why but I love to say "spring has sprung."

This week I promise to work extra hard on my cardio and strength routine. Can't wait to start the new stuff!!

Happy St. Patty's Day

Well, week 3 is just about over and I'm happy to announce my clothes are fitting looser. According to the official scale at the gym I've lost 9 pounds so far! I'm also feeling a little stronger and I am starting to notice some muscle tone. Will, my trainer, says I am losing inches all over. It has really been hard work but I am proud of my efforts! I had a great time over spring break because I got to visit with family but I am really happy to get back into my routine.

Weekends are still scary because of all of the diet pitfalls out there. Marco and I rarely eat red meat but decided we were craving a steak Saturday night. The smallest size on the menu was an 8 oz. steak. The sides included mostly fried things or mashed potatoes. I settled on an 8oz. steak and a baked sweet potato. When the steak arrived I immediately cut it in half and set the other portion on one half of my plate. The sweet potato came engulfed in butter, and as if that wasn't enough, there was a container of butter on the plate -- just in case.

No wonder so many Americans are obese! We've really got to take a long hard look at what we are consuming and demand healthier foods everywhere. I must've looked loony but I squeezed as much butter as I could out of the potato and cut that in half as well. I was satisfied after eating half of the portion of steak and potato. When the waiter came and inquired about dessert, we immediately said no thanks.

I am exited about the week to come. I'm really starting to look forward to my workouts. They are such a great stress relief. I've also decided to run (or run/walk) the next 5K here in Austin. I figure if I have something to train for, after the challenge is over, I'll be committed to life long health for good.

Beginning of Week 3

Week 3 is here and I'm feeling pretty good about the challenge. It's getting easier and easier to make good food choices -- even while eating out. I was in San Antonio for a few days this week and substituted walking during the day for my cardio. Marco and I visited the old Spanish mission where in about two months we will be getting married. I can't wait!

I managed to fit in a strength and cardio session at the gym this Monday and will do another one on Friday. I was nervous about eating out because of how damaging some restaurant food can be to someone's waistline, health, etc. I mean the portions are GINORMOUS -- enough to feed two or three people! And I used to eat like that!

The hotel where we stayed served continental breakfast. Instead of grabbing sweet rolls, greasy eggs and sausage, or making myself a waffle, I felt satisfied with making myself some regular instant oatmeal with skim milk. I toasted an English muffin and I was good to go. No guilt.

For lunch, I always chose grilled chicken either with a salad or with some rice and beans. Today I did allow myself a spoonful of flan and a spoonful of Tres Leches Cake, another one of my favorite desserts. I felt satisfied and happy. Not stuffed to the gills. All in all, I'm feeling really good and can't wait to see the results as I stay on track.

Day 14

Wow, Week 2 is coming to a close. Compared to last week this week went very well. I'm starting to get more familiar with the strength routine. Of course, that doesn't mean that I, in any way, look graceful doing it. I was able to do the strength routine twice this week and the cardio three times as well. I'm proud of the fact that my diet choices were much better this week than last. When you are under stress, the easiest thing to pop in your mouth is usually the most calorically dense such as high calorie desserts or fried foods. I'm excited that next week is SPRING BREAK! Hopefully, I'll be able to really give 110 percent to my diet and my workouts.

This past Wednesday we celebrated the birthdays of two of my co-workers. Of course there was dessert: mini cheesecakes and chocolate eclairs! Is the whole world conspiring against me? I swear those darn things were saying "Eat me." I'm proud to say I resisted the urge. All I could think of was the fact that I wanted to have the seamstress who will do the alterations on my dress look bewildered when I came in for my final dress fitting. Speaking of, the dress should be coming in around the middle of April. I'm having it made by ProNovias in Spain. I hope it doesn't get stuck in customs.

This past weekend, Marco's niece and nephew Clara and Ben came in to visit for a week. We had such a blast even though the weather in Austin wasn't so cooperative. It rained on Sunday so we did indoor things. We went to an Imax movie about sharks -- it's a little embarrassing to admit I had never worn 3-D glasses before. I highly recommend them. After that we headed to the Museum of Natural History on the UT campus, then went to lunch.

Speaking of lunch, I get nervous when faced with going out to eat. There are so many temptations and so many gigantic proportions out in the restaurant world. I immediately scanned the menu for healthy choices and ordered a grilled chicken plate, which came with spinach, hummus, black olives, and just a touch of feta. Yum, Yum, Yum. I will be weighing in tomorrow. My clothes fit a little looser. I wonder what the scale will say.

Day 10

Wow, week 2 of the challenge is here!

Last week was a rough one -- I had a bridesmaid drop out of my wedding, I found out my brother (who is in the military ) and his kids won't be able to attend, and Marco's mom had to be rushed to the hospital.

Needless to say, the Self Challenge saved my life and mind. It's hard to worry about things when you're having to concentrate on doing kicks and punches in kickboxing class.

Last weekend was tough in regards to diet. I indulged in tiramisu (my favorite) on Saturday night. I really do well during the week when everything is structured and I prepare my own lunches for work. I've found that I really need to be on top of my meal plans, especially on the weekend.

Stay tuned for pictures of me doing the Self Challenge exercises.

Day 3

Wow! I've made it through day three and it feels great! I've gotten two workouts out of the way (I love to take group classes at Gold's Gym). So far I'm really loving body combat and bodyjam -- I feel so proud of myself when I leave. Ena my instructor is a "goddess."

Everyone is being supportive including my trainer, Will, who I had my initial meeting with yesterday. I'll be doing strength training 2 times per week and cardio 3 times per week.

Someone once said, "You never say I wish I hadn't worked out today." That is so true. I repeat that to myself when I'm feeling tired and want to go straight home instead of to the gym.