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Laurie Stickler, Trisha Armstrong, Alyssa Polso and Melissa Smith

Context:

Low energy availability has been identified through research as the cornerstone of the female athlete triad, yet reasons for nutritional choices among female collegiate athletes are poorly understood.

Objective:

To explore the perspectives of female collegiate cross country runners on eating behaviors and attitudes toward health.

Design:

Phenomenologic qualitative study with individual, semistructured interviews.

Methods:

Ten collegiate female cross country runners, ages 18–22, participated in the study. All interviews were audiotaped then transcribed. Three researchers independently coded data and developed themes and subthemes before meeting and negotiating findings.

Results:

The following four themes were identified: health behaviors, nutritional knowledge, internal and external factors, and health attitudes.

Conclusions:

This study contributes to understanding “the why” behind health behaviors of female collegiate cross country runners. This developmental understanding may assist in interpreting the behavioral causes of low energy availability; thus, both management and prevention of the triad may be aided by this information.