Is Victoria's Secret Peddling "Eating Disorder Porn?"

Model Anya appears on stage during the 2010 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at the Lexington Armory in New York November 10, 2010. The show will be broadcast November 30,2010 on CBS.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
Model Anya at Victoria's Secret 2010 Fashion Show in New York.
Model Anya at Victoria's Secret 2010 Fashion Show in New York. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

(CBS) What's Victoria's Secret? It might be not feeding the models, say critics of the body images portrayed on Tuesday's televised fashion show.

It's "eating disorder porn," says Harvard pediatrician Dr. Michael Rich. "They are a fantasy that drives you to extreme behaviors which require overcoming normal physiological and instinctual survival drive."

Rich heads the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital Boston, which studies how kids are affected by images in movies, television and the Internet. He and other health professionals interviewed by CBS News worry that the ultra-thin models like those who appeared on the Victoria's Secret show are pushing young women into unrealistic ideals and, in some cases, eating disorders.

"For most women, being 6'2" and 112 pounds with big boobs and tight abs is just not doable," he says. And that, in his opinion, creates a feeling of  "I am inadequate and anything I can do will fall short. That doesn't mean I won't stop trying, by not eating and vomiting up what I do. But I'll never reach my goal." That, he says, can "lead to anxiety, depression, and a dangerously high level of active and passive suicide in self-harming because it sets up a self loathing."

To be clear, Rich is not diagnosing the models that Victoria's Secret promotes as having eating disorders.

What does Victoria's Secret say? A call to the company was not returned at press time.

As many as 10 million Americans are now struggling with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, according to the National Eating Disorder Association.

"You don't know what these women are dong to get their bodies like that," Marisa Sherry, a New York-based nutritionist who specializes in eating disorders, said of the Victoria's Secret show. "You don't know if they are harming themselves or not."

"My clients will look at these women and idolize them, she tells CBS News. "They will go to extremes to have bodies like that. They say that's what I am seeing on magazines and television. That's what my body should look like."