Target ad sends dangerous message to women

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Target is back in the spotlight again. This time for a swimsuit ad "gone wrong" -- an ad that some say is sending a dangerous messages to teens and women.

This ad popped up online on Monday showing a woman with badly photo shopped legs to create a thigh gap.

The thigh gap is one of the newest trends desired by women to show they're thin. 

But doctors warn its not only unrealistic for many's dangerous.

Cindy Keele is the Executive Director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  She's been helping families deal with eating disorders for 23 years.

"When women see this as a goal, and don't realize these are unrealistic photos that are photoshopped, they could try to starve themselves and that can cost them their life," Keele said.

She said ads like these don't just affect women with eating disorders, they can impact healthy, confident women too.

"When women see these pictures, it can trigger eating disorders in women who are healthy and normal and make them feel like they're not normal," she said.

ABC 17 News showed students outside of the Rec Center at the University of Missouri the ad.  Many blamed pictures like this ad for wanting to be skinnier.

"I feel like everyone wants a thigh gap, it's the new thing," Mimi Carter said.

"It makes you look skinnier," her twin, Gigi Carter,  agreed.

Another student echoed their opinions.

"I definitely want a thigh gap," Natalie Miller said. "The media says this is what's pretty and what beautiful is and if you don't have it, people won't see you as pretty."

But experts warn this is an unrealistic ideal, and trying to attain it can be deadly.

"These pictures don't depict normal, healthy women," Keele said. "Many body types no matter how much weight they lose will never have the thigh gap."

Eating disorders are one of the deadliest forms of mental illness.  Six percent of people with an eating disorder will die from the disease.

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