Longevity secrets and wellness practices with Deborah Szekely and Susie Ellis

The two women joined host Kim Marshall in a special Global Wellness Conversations podcast. European Spa shares the top takeaways...


By Wendy Golledge

23 August 2023

Industry legend Deborah Szekely, who celebrated her 101st birthday in May, recently joined fellow wellness leader Susie Ellis in a special Global Wellness Conversations podcast.

Both women have played key roles in building the modern wellness movement.

Deborah Szekely, considered by many to be the founder of the modern fitness resort and spa movement, is often called the godmother of the mind, body and fitness.

Together with her late husband, Edmond, Szekely founded Ranch La Puerta in Tecate Mexico in 1940. It was the first fitness resort in America with a focus on living simply.

She then created the award-winning destination spa in California, Golden Door.

The motto at Ranch La Puerta is siempre mejor – always better

Wellness practices and successful leadership

The special episode of the Global Wellness Conversations podcast, entitled A Mentor, Two Mavens and the Birth of a Movement, features the two women in conversation.

Szekely hired Ellis for her first job and went on to become her mentor, helping to inspire Ellis to establish the Global Wellness Institute and Global Wellness Summit.

Their discussion centres around their decades-long experiences in the wellness industry, with insights and philosophies on the hot topic of longevity.

Here European Spa shares the top takeaways…

In the words of Deborah Szekely...

“My husband’s philosophy still permeates what we teach. Simplicity, nature, values and friendship. Health eating, movement, taking care of your mental wellness, stress reduction and relationships. His principles are the backbone of Ranch La Puerta and haven’t changed.”


“The words you choose to communicate to guests really matter. Don’t use more words than you need. Write it out, re-read it the next day, cut it, then read it and cut it again  – that’s how I work and it’s been very effective. The message has to be clear and legible.”


“Female business leaders – make sure you have 51% female employees. Women work so well together. There’s a harmonious community in a business with a female majority, as they’re not all trying to be number one.”


“I would hope in next 100 years spas will go back to the old knowledge of you are what you eat. The stomach is not prepared to digest all the ingredients as we eat today. Don’t snack – have breakfast, lunch, dinner, and be well balanced. It’s all very simple.”

Prevention over cure

Ellis began working with Szekely in the 1970s, when she was hired at Golden Door, her first job in the spa and wellness industry.

“I think Deborah is the best advertisement for the philosophy of Golden Door and Ranch La Puerta,” she says. “All the money we’re spending on health care is for preventable things. Do the simple things. Eat healthily. Walk. Reduce stress. Prevention needs to become the norm.”

"I learned from Deborah that if we are well, we’ll do better. You can’t neglect yourself and just do do do for everyone else."

Susie Ellis

Chair and CEO, Global Wellness Summit and Global Wellness Institute

“One of the main things I learnt early on from Deborah is the value of volunteering,” said Ellis.

“You learn so much, about what you like and enjoy, you make more friends and you gain experience.

“Joining together, shaping the future – that’s the motto of the GWS. I learned from Deborah not to have long mission statements or you just get lost.”

In 2017 Szekely was the recipient of the Living a Well Life Award from the Global Wellness Summit

Lessons for the future

“Deborah taught me how to treat employees – she really cared for her staff,” Ellis added.

“At Ranch La Puerta staff are given time for massages and exercise classes for themselves, so they know what they’re talking about, and they can really be examples.”

Listen to the full podcast here.


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