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An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
July/August 2010

Make the right call: health and fitness through life-changing choices

By Carmen Villanueva-Hiles, Board Member


  portrait of Carmen VIllanueva-Hiles
  Carmen VIllanueva-Hiles

“You go, girl!” That’s what I would like to say to Linda Thornton, the TDCJ employee featured in this newsletter’s “In the Spotlight.” Ms. Thornton’s story is one of a growing number of TDCJ employee success stories, stories of employees who have made significant life-changing choices and dramatically improved their physical well-being. Over this past year, the increased focus on physical activity and wellness through the Chairman’s Fitness Challenge has energized and motivated employees to lead healthier lives. It has also inspired me to become more active and to promote an employee wellness initiative within my own business.

Strong physical and emotional health is important on a number of levels. It improves stamina and concentration, helps us cope with stress, and builds our self-esteem while reducing the risk of heart attack, type 2 diabetes and other diseases. Physical fitness does not require long hours of rigorous exercise; it can be very simple. For adults over age 18, it means just 30 minutes of physical activity a day for five or more days a week, with additional benefits naturally gained through greater amounts of activity. These activities can include brisk walks, mowing the yard or raking leaves, running, bike riding, swimming or even dancing. Make sure to choose an activity or combination of activities you enjoy, or they will become a burden and be quickly forgotten.

Other benefits from daily physical activity can include lower blood pressure and cholesterol, reduced obesity, prevention or delaying the onset of osteoporosis and relief from symptoms of anxiety, depression, and even arthritis. In addition, employees who are in good physical condition use fewer sick days and are less likely to sustain work-related injuries. Also, a sense of positive health and well-being can help you avoid burnout.

Overall wellness is more than physical fitness; it also includes healthy life choices related to eating. When we talk about eating healthy, we are not talking about dieting or depriving ourselves of food; healthy eating is about changing habits to “eat smart.” It is about moderation. It’s about eating fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It means choosing to eat healthy foods, like an apple instead of potato chips. As there is no “one-size-fits-all” plan for proper nutrition, the Texas Round-Up Health and Fitness Initiative website links to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website ( as a source of nutrition information. This website allows you to create a customized food pyramid to suit your individual needs, and provides tools to plan, track and assess your food choices. There are many other websites where you will find important information on nutrition and healthy eating, including the agency’s Wellness Initiative Now (WIN) website at

In the workplace, particularly in the criminal justice profession, sound physical health can be essential. With this in mind, recent changes were made to correctional officer standards, including implementation of physical agility testing. A physical readiness program, which sets minimum physical fitness standards for law enforcement positions, has also been established by the Office of the Inspector General.

TDCJ employees across the state are taking the initiative and engaging in physical activities on a daily basis. It is not unusual when visiting Huntsville or Austin to see staff members from several divisions walking or running during their breaks and lunch hours. Lunchtime aerobic classes, unit and departmental sport competitions and weight-loss challenges are becoming more common. Daily walks, structured fitness programs, sports competitions and weight-loss programs are evidence of the growing desire to improve overall employee health within the agency. TDCJ employees are learning to recognize that their bodies and minds are influenced by lifestyle choices, and being fit and healthy are fundamental to feeling strong and energetic.

The board is proud of the agency’s employees and their efforts to improve their lives through fitness. The success stories we are hearing are amazing. There’s Jesse Espinosa of the Montford Unit, who in six months has lost 74 pounds of his targeted 112-pound goal, while significantly improving his blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Other successes include Jesus Mendoza of the Community Justice Assistance Division and April Peralta of the Office of General Counsel, both of whom, over the past 12 months, lost more than 98 pounds by making healthy life-changing choices.

All of these remarkable people are an inspiration to us and deserve recognition. Efforts are underway to expand the “WIN Winner” Web page to allow participants to submit similar stories and photos. If you or a co-worker has a life-changing choice success story, please contact your wellness coordinator so it can be posted to the WIN website. Keep up the great work and remember: your wellness is your life.


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Texa$aver 401(k)/457 plans have
investment assistance for all types


illustration of coin being put in piggy bankAre you the type of person who goes on vacation and takes a group tour? Or do you prefer to hire your own private tour guide? Maybe you’d rather check out a new place on your own. Your vacation style may be a lot like your investment style. Fortunately, the Texa$aver Program has investment assistance for all types.

If you are more likely to choose a group tour, you might be the kind of investor who would prefer using the Wells Fargo Advantage Dow Jones Target Date funds. These target date funds allow you to pick one fund based on your expected date of retirement. In addition, each fund:

If you would like a private tour guide in the world of investing, you might want to consider the Managed Account option offered through the Texa$aver Advisor Service. With this service, you provide details that allow the advisor service to handle investment options for you. The Managed Account service determines the most suitable investment options for you and makes the changes to your account. With this approach, you can enjoy:

Perhaps you would prefer to pick your own investments. If so, you can build your investment portfolio from 10 funds offered through Texa$aver, or you can enroll in the Schwab Personal Choice Retirement Account (PCRA), a self-directed brokerage account. With the PCRA, you can choose from more than 4,700 mutual funds outside the Texa$aver fund lineup.

All you have to do to make a change in your Texa$aver account is log in at or call 1-800-634-5091. Live operators are available to assist you by phone Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. (CST).

Please consider the investment objectives, risks, fees and expenses carefully before investing.


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Make the right call: health and fitness through life-changing choices

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