It's been 8 years, 3 months and 28 days since I last took part in a fundraising event to raise money for charity. It was a Trek to climb Mount Snowdonia, which I naively took part in wearing plimsolls, later suffering the consequences.
Since that day, I swore that I would stick to donating to charity rather than fundraising.
That is until recently, when I was persuaded to join Charity Right’s 5 Day Veggie Challenge - with a pinch of peer pressure from my colleague’s. I figured it was going to be much easier than going on a trek and I could do it while wearing plimsolls.
Being a meat lover, I plucked up the courage to start the 5 Day Veggie Challenge on Thursday 16th August 2018 with the dreams of finishing the challenge on Eid day with a big meat feast. I set my target of £100 on my MuslimGiving online fundraising page and shared it with my friends and family. To my surprise, I reached 75% of my target on the day before I even started the challenge. This meant there was no looking back. I was fully committed!
I began day one feeling confident. I had a breakfast, which wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. A simple two slices of toast, some cheeky Nutella and a much-needed morning coffee.
At lunch time, I decided my best bet of finding something veggie was to pop in to my local Subway and, to the shock of the workers who know me for ordering my chipotle chicken sandwich, I instead went for a veggie patty sandwich. It was actually really good and I might consider it again in the future.
Dinner was a little harder as I hadn’t really prepared, even though the day before I’d gone to Tesco for a browse and picked up some Quorn meat alternatives. I just wasn’t quite ready to taste those yet.
With the help of my mum, who got the news from my siblings that I was going on a veggie challenge, I got some spinach baaji with love (May Allah bless all our mothers). My wife made me a super yummy omelette (May Allah bless our wives), Uncle Ben provided me with the rice, and I made some steamed veggies, which all went down a treat minus the broccoli, ekh!
I started my day in a bit of a rush so I grabbed myself a blueberry Belvita and thought to myself: ‘This veggie thing isn’t too bad’. However, it was Friday and my colleague Adam and I usually go for a kebab after Jumma, so we had to find an alternative. Adam was also doing the veggie challenge and our manager, who decided not to take up the challenge, suggested we go to a local vegetarian and vegan restaurant, and he bravely agreed to join us.
We went to 90 Degree Melt, which is a vegetarian alternative to an American diner. The food looked fun and tasted alright, but the portions were small and none of us felt very full. So on our way back to the office, Adam and I bought a selection of veggie snacks to binge on, while our manager escaped to go have lunch at home - in other words: meat.
Dinner that night was sweet potato fries, noodles which my colleague, Shams, who was also doing the challenge kindly made for the team, and another omelette, which was the best thing about the veggie challenge: the ability to still eat eggs.
Just as I was starting to think the challenge was easy, and when friends began messaging me telling me it seemed too easy, along came the weekend and I was now slowly starting to run out of ideas.
I missed breakfast on day three, I figured I could sleep and dream about all the meat I was missing.
For lunch, I finally decided to take a look at the collection of Quorn items I had bought before starting the challenge. I tried the ready meal Quorn Tikka Masala, which lacked flavour but filled me up somewhat. I decided I would cook some noodles for dinner, which didn’t go too well as I overcooked the noodles and they became gummy, so I opted for some cereal instead.
So far, this challenge had been fairly easy, but I was getting some meat withdrawal symptoms, which involved excessively talking about meat. For breakfast, I had a cheese and mushroom toasted sandwich, which is always a winner. I couldn’t be bothered to think up something for lunch, so I didn’t eat anything until dinner. I had a lovely tasting veggie burger with chips and a whole load of chilli sauce to make up for the tasteless Quorn “curry” I’d endured the day before.
By day five I didn’t feel bad at all and, looking back at the previous days, I had actually eaten plenty to keep me full, even on the days where I skipped a meal I figured it was something I do time to time anyways.
Day five was the Day of Arafah, so I chose to fast.
For iftar I grabbed a Spicy veggie wrap from Tesco. It tasted horrible, but luckily my wife made me a giant omelette, so I got rid of the fillings from the wrap and turned it into my very own omelette wrap.
I really thought I would be feeling weak after four days of eating only vegetarian food - along with a day of fasting which ended with not the greatest of meals - but I was absolutely fine. I didn’t feel hungry, I didn’t miss meat that much.
Physically, I felt lighter and I felt like I slept better over those days. One of the biggest changes without going into too much detail was how much better it felt to visit the loo.
By the sixth day, the challenge was over and it was finally Eid day. Even though I’d thought that by this time I’d be opting for a steak for breakfast, I didn’t have any urges for meat. The challenge helped me better reflect on the people who don’t have the luxury of eating meat every single day.
Eating more vegetables and less meat clearly has its health benefits, and I think doing the challenge has proved to me that I don’t need to eat meat every single day.
At the same time, I realised that I’m somewhat spoilt and eat more than my fair share of meat. I will now definitely start introducing more vegetarian meals throughout the week for me and my family. Next time, I’ll try something even tougher, like a vegan challenge!
M Khaled - Web Designer, Business Owner and a lover of arts and photography.
Want more of these blog posts delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for our newsletter here.