Victoria's Secret angels follow low-carb high-fat diets to get runway ready

South African Victoria's Secret angel Candice Swanepoel.
South African Victoria's Secret angel Candice Swanepoel.

You may think that models are just genetically gifted or naturally skinny but for the Victoria's Secret angels, the job calls for a strict low-carb, high-fat diet combined with a gruelling exercise regime to ensure that they are catwalk-ready for one of the world's most eagerly-anticipated runway shows.

Incredibly intense experience

London-based journalist, blogger and fitness consultant Poppy Cross recently began mimicking the Victoria's Secret diet and exercise programme to test what results she could achieve. Poppy explained in a blog post that the media covering her story actually misinterpreted her words. While the experience was "incredibly intense" she did not go through hell and is actually healthier as a result. 

Victoria's Secret models, known as "angels", are required to adhere to strict requirements in terms of their body measurements. According to Poppy, to be a Victoria's Secret angel your body fat percentage has to be lower than 18%. A healthy body fat percentage for an average woman is 25 to 35% while 15 to 17% is considered very low for a woman, Built Lean explains. The Daily Mail adds that models have to be over 1.75m tall and have waists no bigger than 60cm.

To decrease their body fat percentage, some of the angels, including Adriana Lima, have reportedly reached out to celebrity nutritionist, Dr Charles Passler. Dr Passler has a specific approach to weight loss comprised of six elements, Elle magazine reports. These critical factors are sleep, diet, exercise, stress management, hydration and breathing.

Read: What's keeping you from getting your dream body?

Poppy, who also consulted Dr. Passler, was advised to adhere to a low-carb, high-fat diet similar to Tim Noakes' Banting diet that many South Africans are following. Her diet is also high-protein with chicken, fish, eggs or beef at every meal. She ate two portions of healthy fats at every meal. (One portion is equal to a tablespoon of butter or oil or a third of an avocado.) Any form of sugar, including fruit is eliminated as are vegetables that grow below the ground. Instead, Poppy upped her intake of broccoli and leafy greens.

For a refresher on low-carb high-fat diets, read the 10 golden rules of Banting.

Poppy also explains that the hashtag, #TrainLikeAnAngel, that many of the Victoria's Secret models use on Instagram and Twitter should not be misinterpreted. There is nothing angelic about the gruelling training that includes pilates, yoga, boxing, running, weight training and ballet, all done whilst on a carbohydrate-restricted diet.

According to Dan Roberts, a personal trainer who advised Poppy, she needed well-defined obliques, muscular arms and "concrete"glutes to achieve the Victoria's Secret look.

Watch Victoria's Secret angel Elsa Hosk in a promotional video for the brand's sports range:

@hoskelsa showing that punching bag who's boss in new @victoriassecretsport #TOTALKnockout #regram ????

A video posted by Victoria's Secret (@victoriassecret) on

Read: What Tim Noakes eats

Despite how difficult the challenge was, Poppy insisted that she has more energy and is healthier as a result: "I can manage to workout far more intensely than I did at the start". Poppy didn't lose any weight, but she did lose fat, replacing it with muscle. While her weight actually increased slightly from 59.3 to 59.9 kilograms, Poppy lowered her body fat percentage significantly. Before she started the programme, Poppy measured 22.2% body fat – a figure that falls perfectly within the healthy range of 21 to 24% for women involved in the fitness industry. By the end of the programme, Poppy had reduced her body fat percentage to 17%, losing over 5%.

A comparison of how different body fat percentages look, courtesy of Built Lean, a top fitness website founded by Mark Perry.

body fat percentage

Watch how Poppy tones her core:

Read: What it takes to be a female bodybuilder

Poppy also explained the training programme helped her to get her cholesterol levels within a healthy range. Before the challenge, Poppy had an elevated total cholesterol at 5.46 mmol/l. After the challenge, Poppy's cholesterol measured in at 4.55 mmol/l. A previous article by Health24 explains that total cholesterol should be lower than 5.0 mmol/l.

What do you think? Is the Victoria's Secret diet and exercise programme perfectly healthy, or do you feel it is too restrictive, encouraging an unrealistic lifestyle? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Read more:

High protein diet may be bad for the health

France bans super skinny models to discourage anorexia

Is pregnant glamour model Sarah Stage too thin?

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
28% - 9933 votes
72% - 25924 votes