PHIL CALVERT: Bacon and cheese toastie is my Nirvana

I WAS beginning to think all my cycling gear had shrunk in the wash.

I would try stuff on and nothing seemed to fit me properly any more. That in itself provided ample excuse for me not to take my bike out, but when I did eventually lever my ample form into lycra I found my performance on a bike had diminished. The hills I could grind my way up successfully just six months ago now proved too much for me.

The explanation was clear. My cycling stuff had shrunk in the wash, and the new, tighter fit meant I was now unable to draw in sufficient air as my lungs were constricted, and this impacted severely on my ability to pedal uphill.

Wifey was not impressed with this logic. Words like ‘pastry’, ‘cake’ and (perhaps most hurtfully) ‘beer’ were tossed in my direction as the real cause of my difficulty, which surprised me, as our cycling tour organiser had often reassured me ‘real cyclists can live on beer and pork pies for months’.

Mind you he has slowed down rather a lot in recent years as his shirt sizes drift seamlessly from XL to XXXXL. A sad decline for this once proud athlete.

Since October, however, his patent ‘cabbage soup’ diet has helped him shed an impressive two stones. I asked him if all his shirts were now too large, but apparently the only change has been a loss of transparency and a deepening of colour as the fibres in his gear to relax a little, rather than pushed to breaking point. Presently his weight-loss regime is becoming static but swimming twice-a-day, he aims to lose another stone. I know exactly how he feels. I have lost a stone since New Year but it is becoming much harder.

My own strategy involves distancing myself from any temptation. A quick bowl of bran for breakfast then nothing except hot drinks until teatime. Come five o’clock I find myself with an urgent need to eat. I become impatient rather than bad tempered, but I do not want to have to wait or I will start picking at biscuits and stuff. If I stick to a sensible portion, rather than the usual pyramid of calories, I have cracked it for the day. That 20 minutes after the first helping are critical. Get through that and my appetite eases and I content myself with fruit during the evening.

During the day, however, especially in these cold days, fruit holds almost no appeal at all. I took Monty for a run on the canal the other day, me red-faced, but grimly determined to succeed while the little collie raced effortlessly ahead. Only after about eight miles did he start to slow down and begin to tire. It was time to turn around, but it was chilly and a café was but 100 yards away. ‘Well’ I thought, ‘a quick brew can do no harm’. But as the waitress came to take my order my resolve failed. Toasted teacake? A slice of Victoria sponge perhaps? No I opted for the most calorific item on the menu ... a cheese and bacon toastie!

Now most things we buy disappoint. That shiny car in the showroom, or that glittering diamond ring in the jewellers somehow never quite lives up to their promise. Bacon is different. The thought is wonderful, the smell is wonderful, and that first taste of salty delight, especially when combined with slightly caramelised cheese is magnificent. I managed not to wolf it all down but to savour every bite. My first bacon of 2012.

Despite being tired, cold, covered in mud and sat outside in freezing temperatures, I was in Nirvana.

The return journey was a repeat of the outward leg, with Monty now fully recovered and leaving me trailing in his wake. Nevertheless, back at the car I felt like it had been a good outing. Now and again, there is no real harm in having a treat. But it still took incredible self control to load the bike onto the back of the car as the smell of chips drifted across from the pub on the opposite bank.

Life is full of temptation, and for me to have any hope of weight loss, prior to reopening the garden centre at Reedley in March, purposely distancing myself from temptation is key. Hey ho. Just another half a stone to go