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Actor Alan Cumming snapped this photo of model Shanina Shaik chowing down after this year's Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. (Photo: @alancummingsnaps/Instagram.)

Every year, during the lead-up to the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show (airing Tuesday night at 10 p.m. EST on CBS), the media presents us with a mouthwatering menu of stories about lingerie models and what they are eating. And not eating.

Backstage With Smokin’ Hot Models Craving Fatty Foods” is how TMZ headlined its reporting from the scene of the lavish show’s taping last month. Backstage, it seems, there is a whole lot of talk about food. Just not a whole lot of eating: “We asked the models about their cravings. Shanina Shaik and another model go for the usual suspects…chocolate, ice cream and pizza. But it’s worth noting, the food table right next to them was untouched.” What discipline!

Immediately after the show, the anticipation of actual sustenance was palpable: “Me and the girls always get pizza, so, looking forward to that,” model Jacquelyn Jablonski told WWD. “I don’t know if I can say where [we order the pizza from]. I think I know where it’s from, but I’ll get in trouble.” What allegiance!

Eventually, we learn that these women did find some gratification after the show: “Models pig out on burgers,” crowed the New York Post. The article goes on to detail how supermodel Adriana Lima “worked up an appetite” after five hours of interviews, strutting the catwalk in stilettos and expertly pursing her lips for the cameras. After her frilly angel wings came off, Lima apparently decided to follow the dietary advice of a TV commercial: It’s not fast food. It’s Wendy’s. The Post reports: “Sources tell us the supermodel later made a 1 a.m. call to a Wendy’s to deliver burgers and fries to her afterparty at Bathtub Gin. ‘The food was brought out on silver platters for a fine-dining twist,’ said a spy. Lima and ‘the models fed each other.'” What camaraderie!

So goes the annual feast-or-famine news cycle of the sexy-underwear-diet beat. Two years ago at the show, the New York Daily News chronicled how one model sustained herself on things like “Kind bars, coconut water and raw chocolate” while “staying away from carbs and gluten” and anxiously awaiting the post-performance payoff: “Maybe a pizza,” as another model put it. “Or 10.”

The questions about eating have become so routine by this point that model Magdalena Frackowiak bluntly refused to answer one reporter when he asked about post-runway indulgences during this year’s taping. “This is stupid. Ask more smart questions, not eating after the show,” she said, according to London’s Daily Mail. “[I]t seems like I am starving myself, and I can’t wait for the show to end to eat.”

She’s right, of course. It’s a tired cliché  even if it remains the obvious question.

How these women achieve and maintain their impossibly statuesque stick-figure physique is naturally fascinating to a general public whose average waistline trends in the opposite direction. (We’ve all read the horrifying reports about weight-conscious models subsisting on nonfoods like tissues and cottonballs.) And how the models finally let loose when all the fitness pressure and blemish-illuminating spotlight is off is a great humanizer after all the superhuman-sounding diet and exercise efforts. Toss in the occasional, infuriating humble-bragger of the group “food-wise, I’m very, very lucky that I can eat whatever I want…. I don’t cut anything out, and I just work out more,” as Candice Swanepoel told OK! Magazine and you have some elements of real drama to reasonably fill out a few column inches and justify all those jaw-dropping photographs.

Of course, there may be another layer to this line of questioning, a more carnal element. Consider what the late author Bunny Crumpacker wrote in her 2006 book, The Sex Life of Food: “Food can be male, like sausage, or female, like eggs, or simply get tangled up in our feelings about sex because food and sex are so inextricably linked.” In other words, all this talk about food might simply be a roundabout way of talking about sex, a coded system of discussing sensual things with sensual beings without appearing too crass. Asking a lingerie model about her more intimate plans after the show is sure-fire way to lose your press credentials; asking about dinner is a bit less lecherous.

If that’s true, then this year’s post-performance burger orgy is just pure food porn.

One thing is certain: These stories have legs.