My Victoria’s Secret challenge – Hard but not Hell

June 21, 2015
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So you may have read my article in The Mail on Sunday re getting in Victoria’s Secret Shape. Sadly, The Mail claimed I battled ‘months of hell’ and ‘hated every second’  which isn’t true.

Yes, the programme was incredibly intense. Yes I felt exhausted. Yes I got run-down. But I can manage to workout far more intensely than I did at the start. My endurance has also improved and I feel proud of my new mental and physical strength – not to mention my cholesterol and body fat are both lower and my muscle mass has increased.

Since muscle helps to regulate the body’s homeostasis,  metabolic  regulation and disease prevention, muscle has a major part to play in the prevention of  diseases, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes and can improve quality of life during the ageing process.

The VS models do seem to be healthier than the run of the mill runway model, with their vigorous exercise routine. ‘You work out as an athlete. All your mind, all your everything goes into it,’ Alessandra Ambrosio has admitted. Victoria’s Secret creative director Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou also acknowledges; ‘It’s really like being an Olympian – they have to be in peak condition’.

The exercise

Yes, ‘Train like an angel’ – the the hashtag VS models use to describe their very un-heavenly workouts is a devilishly deceptive term. It would be far more apt if it were #workoutlikeafiend given the relentless and intense exercise involved, all performed on restricted diet. All manner of methods including lifting weights, jumping rope, running, boxing, ballet, yoga, Pilates plus personal training is employed to get those buns of steel and rock-hard abs.

But Dan Roberts kept my motivation up and I found myself feeling physically and mentally stronger as the weeks went on. It was enormously rewarding – not just because my body was getting more ‘toned’ – but because I felt healthy, strong and capable.

My Health: Body Composition, Cholesterol and Weight changes.

before1At the start of the VS programme my weight, muscle mass (measured using a Bodpod – a very precise Air Displacement Plethysmograph (ADP) that uses whole body densitometry to determine body composition – fat vs. lean) and cholesterol levels are measured at The University of Westminster. I weigh 59.3 kgs and have a body fat percentage of 22.2 putting me in the ‘lean’ body composition category. To be a VS model, you need to have 18 per cent body fat or lower. My cholesterol was 5.46 mmol/l (should be less than 5).

By the end, I weigh 59.9kg’s, have a body fat percentage of 17 per cent and my cholesterol is 4.55 mmol/l. This means that although I’ve put on weight, it’s all lean muscle since I’ve lost over five per cent of my initial fat.

As for my lower cholesterol levels (which were initially 0.46 mmol/l too high and now well within the healthy range) means I’ve decreased the chance of plaque formation in my arteries. It’s the plaque in your arteries that can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and peripheral artery disease.

My lower blood glucose levels will also help prevent getting type 2 diabetes, states Dr Mackenzie. ‘Elevated blood glucose levels results in many of the known complications associated with diabetes; i.e. Strokes, hypertension, heart diseases and kidney failure. Exercise, can again help with this as we know that exercise increases muscle mass and that muscle is a major user of glucose. Thus having more muscle should ultimately mean you have a healthier metabolic profile.’

But does this all mean I should stick to the same no-carb diet and exercise regime? Doctor Passler says not: ‘No carb diets are not meant for long-term use. The potential long term negative effects are nutrient deficiencies and an imbalance of normal flora bacteria, the bacteria plays a large role in you immune system, ability to process nutrients, mental and emotional wellbeing and the ability to maintain weight.’ Instead I should follow the initial low-carb diet I kept to in the first month and exercise several times a week to maintain and build muscle mass as well as keep cardio fit.


Although I’m exhausted I’m fitter and firmer with increased muscle mass and a lower fat percentage. I look far skinnier in the before photos which weren’t printed in The Mail. Getting here however, has been hard. The VS models seeing Dr Passler and Dan Roberts are in the best hands and although on a restrictive diet, Dr Passler provides supplements to ensure their health doesn’t suffer (but it has to be said that supplements can never replace taking in natural food). According to Dr Passler the models  consume adequate protein and calories so their muscle is not used as fuel. ‘You need calories to build muscle’ says Dr Passler and ‘you need to put in the time and effort to build muscle.’

Anyone who thinks that the VS models rely solely on starvation and genetics is wrong. ‘Genetics plays a large role in what each individual has to work with as a foundation.  The rest is hard work, dedication and talent. I see potential models who have been discovered and seek me out to get model fit and are amazed at the amount of work and effort it requires’, declares Dr Passler.

Indeed, the hours and dedication required to be VS catwalk-ready requires a militant mind and athlete’s performance – impossible to maintain if you have a job, family or want an enriching social life. As Adrianna Lima admitted: ‘It’s not that I do crazy diets throughout the year. I just do it for this particular thing. After this show, I become normal again.’ I’m not quite sure what constitutes ‘normal’ for Adrianna (although I have a sneaky suspicion it’s far from the average-normal) but ‘healthy-normal’ is the target that I myself, am very much looking forward to getting back to.


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  • Reply Giusy June 21, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    Hi Poppy, I really enjoyed reading this article, it gave me the boost to keep training for my summer body. I have a quick question! Could you tell me what kind of vitamin and mineral complex you had to take, as I would like to introduce those to my health plan. Also did you have to take these pills everyday?

    Thank you in advance!! xo

    • Reply Poppy June 22, 2015 at 12:04 pm

      Hi Giusy,
      Thank you for your lovely comment.
      The vitamin and mineral complex I took was MitoVive by Metagenics ( I took a scoop every morning before exercise.
      Good luck with the training!
      Poppy x

      • Reply Giusy June 22, 2015 at 5:12 pm

        Thanks! Do I take the BCAA and digestive enzymes at the same time?


        • Reply Poppy June 22, 2015 at 6:50 pm

          Hi Giusy,
          It depends what your goals are. BCAA’s are great at ensuring your body uses fat not muscle for fuel but if your main goal is to lose weight and then tone up – I’d say wait until you’re in the toning-up stage. If you’re already lean, take the BCAA’s 15 mins before you exercise. xx

          • Kate October 19, 2015 at 12:00 pm

            Hi poppy
            What brand of BCAA and digestive enzyme did you use ?

  • Reply Samantha June 21, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Hi poppy
    Are u able to post the plan you used fitness or nutritional to acheive these results?
    Would be very grateful!

    • Reply Poppy June 22, 2015 at 12:06 pm

      Hi Samantha,
      Absolutely – I am working on this now.
      The plan will be available in a week or so – stay tuned!

      • Reply carine martanetto June 22, 2015 at 4:44 pm

        Uhulll waiting! :) thank u so much.

      • Reply Isabela January 16, 2016 at 8:25 pm

        Hi Poppy!
        you have posted?

  • Reply Alice Dlamini June 22, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    Hi Poppy,

    Read your article on Victoria Secret girls’ diet.

    Please can you post the plan and exercises used.

    Would love to make healthy choices that will help me with sc.

    Much appreciated.

    • Reply Poppy June 22, 2015 at 6:48 pm

      Hi Alice,
      Thanks so much!
      The fitness e-book will be released soon! Stay tuned!

  • Reply Maya June 22, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    Hi Poppy! Awesome experience!! I’m from Brazil and I’m excited to try it too!! Haha.. Can’t wait to see your plan explanation! XO

    • Reply Poppy June 22, 2015 at 6:47 pm

      HI Maya,
      Thank you so much! Stay tuned!xx

  • Reply Lauren June 23, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Hi Poppy,
    I love this article. I am trying to get in shape and this gave me exactly the motivation I needed. Kudos to you for your discipline! Have you found that you have been able to maintain?

  • Reply Jenn June 24, 2015 at 5:13 am

    Hi, this is awesome! How long did you follow this lifestyle? I’m assuming it wasn’t a two week process…if only!

    • Reply Poppy June 25, 2015 at 9:50 am

      Hi Lauren,
      Thanks so much for your kind words! I’m now on a different fitness regime – combining weights boxing, yoga, PIlates, running, tennis – just everything that I love! I listen to my body and do what feels good. I hope your training is going well! xx

  • Reply Abby June 24, 2015 at 7:54 am

    First of all, you did not need the Angel workout. You are already gorgeous!

    Second, all that effort is just too much. Undeniably, the VS Angels look ethereal but I would not subject myself to such “rigorous and punishing” routines. I just want to be healthy.

    • Reply Poppy June 25, 2015 at 9:52 am

      Hi Abby,
      You’re right – the training is crazy intense and for most of the world – there’s no need to do it. However these models are paid to do it and they are looked after incredibly well. They are athletes – all that lean muscle is very healthy for reasons I state in my blog post. However, of course you can be healthy without doing such a rigorous routine! xx

  • Reply joe lovely June 24, 2015 at 11:04 am

    I have been low carb for over 3 years – in ketosis about half the time – I plan to follow a low carb Primal diet forever – fantastic energy, sleep and mental sharpness – compare what you did recently to the Primal Blueprint – it sounds like you were very similar. good fats. low carb. HIIT. heavy lifting – a sound plan for life to me @joeketone

    • Reply Poppy June 25, 2015 at 9:55 am

      Hi Joe,
      So glad to hear your low carb diet works so well for you and you sound like you balance it with carbs half the time too which is so important. Eating no carbs is not healthy in the long run which I’m sure you’re aware of considering you mix it up! Keep up the great work and hope to hear from you again! xx

  • Reply chris June 24, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    Hi Poppy, quick question,

    The article stated you were eating 1300 calories per day. Is that accurate? If so how many calories were you burning per day?

    Also, the article said you were lifting almost daily. How long were they workouts?

    Thank you!

  • Reply Poppy June 25, 2015 at 9:56 am

    HI Chris,

    Yes I was eating approx 1200 calories a day in the latter half of the plan. Not sure how many I was burning but it was significant! I’m publishing my fitness regime in an e-book soon. Stay tuned!

  • Reply K June 25, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Hi Poppy!

    I stumbled across your article and then your blog and WOW such great information! You are truly inspiring throughout many of the articles in which you write. I must say I am very excited to see the meal plan and I am hoping also the workout plans you did will be posted at some point. I am working up in my workout plans at this time I can relate to your experience in some way. I am “skinny” as well, however my focus in working out is to gain muscle and be stronger not “skinnier”. I love how you showed your weight not changing at all, yet your fat and muscle mass changed. This is great point for many to see.

    2 quick questions….
    1. For your abs, did you focus on your abs everyday with a few exercises or did you spend one or two days focusing on your abs?

    2. I believe I read you completed the VS angel’s “on season” workout/diet. Do you know how much sugar, fruits, wine, not good food you should take in during the “off season”?

    Keep going girl you are inspiring!!! Excited to see the meals and workouts :)

    • Reply Poppy June 26, 2015 at 6:59 am

      Hi K!
      Thanks for your enthusiasm and questions re my VS experience.
      I worked my whole body every week. I’d have a day/two each week when I’d focus on abs and arms and then the rest of the week would be on different areas/improving cardio fitness/strength etc. Even when you don’t focus on your abs – many exercise still engage them and rely on them – it’s not all about crunches!
      Keep eyes out for the e-book which will have more info that you want.

  • Reply Lib June 26, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Hi Poppy,

    I must have read your article 15 times now… Congratulations on achieving those amazing abs! I’m looking to lose about 25 pounds that I gained during pregnancy – this would take me down to about 57kg at 5ft 9 (though I was pretty slim previously, it’s not natural, I’ve always watched what I ate). First of all, any tips of getting rid of the initial bulk? And second, when can I expect this fabulous E-book?! x

  • Reply The Victoria’s Secret Challenge – Is it really worth it? | erin guertin June 26, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    […] Poppy Cross, a UK Health and Fitness blogger decided to challenge herself and try to attain that V.S. Angel body over a four month period.  Before she started her diet and exercise regime, Poppy was a 5 foot 9 inch woman, with a 26 inch waist, a body fat percentage of 22 percent and weighed 59.3 KG. […]

    • Reply Poppy June 26, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      Thanks for sharing Erin! xx

  • Reply Shannon June 27, 2015 at 7:12 am

    Great article! This really sheds some light on the modelling industry! I can’t wait for the e-book to come out! X

    • Reply Poppy June 29, 2015 at 10:04 am

      Thanks so much Shannon!xx

  • Reply How to get a Victoria’s Secret body - Australia News June 29, 2015 at 6:46 am

    […] undertook a four-month Victoria’s Secret workout challenge and concluded on her blog that #TrainLikeAnAngel, which the models use to describe their workouts, was a “devilishly […]

  • Reply How to get a Victoria's Secret body | PhysiciansWeight June 29, 2015 at 10:25 am

    […] undertook a four-month Victoria’s Secret examination plea and concluded on her blog that #TrainLikeAnAngel, that a models use to report their workouts, was a “devilishly false […]

  • Reply Miranda Kerr during the Victoria's Secret fashion show 2011. Source: Supplied | PhysiciansWeight July 1, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    […] undertook a four-month Victoria’s Secret examination plea and concluded on her blog that #TrainLikeAnAngel, that a models use to report their workouts, was a “devilishly false […]

  • Reply Friday Fun | Julie's Jazz July 10, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    […] My Victoria’s Secret Challenge-Hard but Not Hell. Poppy Cross is a fitness blogger. As an experiment she challenged herself to follow the diet and workout regimen of a Victoria’s Secret Angel Model. This article from her blog is a bit of a rebuttal to the original article from the Daily Mail. […]

  • Reply MelissaBishop July 22, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    I think you look better post VS workout and diet plan. So much so that I’ve found inspiration to recommit to my own paleo plan I’ve been trying to do half hearted.

    • Reply Poppy July 23, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      Thank you so much Melissa. Good for you getting stuck into your paleo plan – I’m such a fan of this diet. Go girl – let me know how you get on! xx

  • Reply Efrat July 27, 2015 at 12:14 am

    Hi Poppy, I really enjoyed reading this article. I have a quick question! Do I have to take the vitamin and mineral when I do the diet?

    • Reply Poppy July 27, 2015 at 9:33 am

      Hi Efrat,

      I was advised to take it so if you’re doing the diet then you should probably take it too. Also – remember the diet is not meant for long-term use!


  • Reply Efrat August 1, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Hi again >3
    I know that you did the workouts for four months, but how long did you do the diet? Week? Month?

  • Reply Kailyn Brazier November 11, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Hi Poppy
    i was just wondering what did the VS diet consist of
    did you go by a diet plan or ?

    Thanks Kailyn

  • Reply Darby November 20, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Hi Poppy!
    I would love to do something intense like this for my body. I was wondering when to expect your e-book. I am super eager to read it and I would love to know more about what you did on a daily basis to get to your end results.
    Thank you,

    • Reply Poppy November 24, 2015 at 12:03 pm

      Hi Darby!
      The e-book has every single exercise I performed with Dan Roberts during the 3 month period. It’s really varied – expect HIIT, weights, body weight exercises, skipping, running, Pilates, ballet and MORE!
      I can’t wait to share it with you! Date of release is TBC but it’s so nearly ready!

  • Reply Jordan May 13, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    When will this book be out? It seems inconsistent with updates on your Instagram. Also what vitamins did you use from dr. Charles Passat he offer many options on his site!!! Thanks girl:)

    • Reply Poppy May 20, 2016 at 10:10 am

      Hi Jordan,

      Thanks for your comment. You’re right – there have been some really exciting things happening which I cannot yet share that have held the ebook up. It is finished and now being converted into the right format for itunes before it can go live which I hope will happen v quickly now! Providing there are no hold-ups it should be within the week. xx

    • Reply Poppy July 5, 2016 at 7:48 pm

      It’s OUT NOW! On Itunes! Love to know how you find it! xx

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