Dateline NBC
updated 10/8/2004 7:45:12 PM ET 2004-10-08T23:45:12

Father John's diet story
On day one of the Diet Challenge, a fatigued Father John showed up at Midwest mountaineering for training session with Guy Tromblee. It was there that he shared some stunning news. Just the night before, his healthy mother had suddenly died of a brain aneurism. Father John, who had been up all night, thought about canceling his training session, but then he and his family thought, no. Three days later he would preside at his mother’s funeral. And so, as it turned out, Father John began his diet challenge in the middle of a deeply painful time. He began walking five miles a day with weight on his back, cleaning up his bad eating habits. Two weeks in something was working. His weight was down five pounds.

At midnight before Easter, one month into the Diet Challenge, Father John and his congregation reenact finding the tomb of Jesus empty. Twelve hours later, Father John celebrated the end of Lent and dieting was out. A day later he was back at the gym wearing a 20-pound backpack. After his workout, it was a swim and swirl in the hot tub, but at his next weigh in, he was up three pounds and fuming. He vowed to workout even harder -- and Dateline had a surprise for him. Part of his workout involves climbing stairs, so we had arranged for a lot of them, courtesy of the Cleveland Browns Stadium. Meanwhile, disturbing news from the mountain Father John hopes to climb. This spring there were four deaths, all involving experienced climbers, all from falls near the summit. And by June, Father John was still 10 pounds down, 30 pounds from his goal and a long way from climbing Mount Rainier.

On a workout, in no time, he was spent and his heart was racing. His trainer was not impressed, saying he’d pretty much have to be dragged up the mountain in this shape. But in July, he was down 15 of his 40 for the first of two important practice climbs. New Hampshire's 6,000 feet tall Mt. Washington turned out heavenly. But his confidence was short lived. A month later, a climb on Washington state's Mt. Baker was almost a disaster. Father John slipped on a snow bridge and injured himself. Suddenly he was rattled and wondered if his plan was still a good idea.

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