I'll be honest, 6 months is a long time to see no change at all. Are you tracking changes other than what the scale tells you? For example, just using a tape measure will help you figure out if your gut is really getting smaller or not. Once a week I take several measurements to determine if I like the way things are progressing:
- Arm (triceps and biceps)
I lose weight very slowly, on the order of about 10-20 lbs a year (5-10kg) so I can identify with how demotivating it can be to just look at a scale. In that same time, I can lose several inches and go down in size but not so much weight. The loss of inches helps keep me motivated.
Figuring Out the Diet
As long as you eat good food, and avoid restaurants when possible, there are a number of areas where your fat loss journey might get into trouble:
- You're eating too much. Periodically, you have to reduce the amount of food you eat to compensate for your smaller size and keep losing weight. When you don't see any change for a couple weeks (inches or weight), it's time to reduce your food by 200-300 Calories a day.
- You're not eating the right things. You need a certain amount of protein, fat, and carbs to support your activity. Keep your protein somewhat high (1.8g protein/kg body weight), and play with the ratio of fat to carbs for the remainder of the calories. I found that I work better with lower fat and more carbs. Some find that they do better the opposite.
- You aren't sleeping enough. Your body needs sleep to build muscle and burn fat. If you can give yourself a consistent 8 hour block a night for sleeping, you'll be in the best shape for both. When you can sleep for about that long and wake up without an alarm you will be refreshed, be able to think more clearly, and lower blood pressure and improve a myriad of other health markers. Getting proper sleep should be a priority to anyone trying to lose weight and/or build muscle.
There's always the chance that you have something more going on with your body like an inflamed gall bladder, insufficient iodine in the diet to support proper thyroid function, etc. However, the three bullets address the top contenders for why you aren't losing weight and/or inches.
Figuring out Exercise
Muscle soreness really is a poor indicator of how hard you are working. All it means is that you did something your body isn't used to. I find that after a layoff my body can get very sore from even a light workout. I'm just starting back in the gym after a surgery, and even though the weights I'm using are very light for me I'm incredibly sore. Once I'm back in the swing of things, I can be using twice the weight I am now with the same number of reps and not feel sore at all.
That said, there's some ways to ensure you are hitting your goals:
- Progressive Overload: You should be getting stronger, even while losing weight. Over time you should be increasing weight, reps, speed, etc. If bodybuilding is your primary goal, I'd recommend a progression where you start with a challenging 3x8 and keep adding reps until you get to 3x12 with that weight. Then increase by 5-10 lbs and start over at 3x8. When you run out of being able to increase that way, switch to the 3-5 rep range and do more sets.
- Cardiovascular Work: I find that I lose weight best when I have a good cardiovascular base. That can mean limiting the rest between sets or exercises. It can also mean metabolic conditioning using barbell complexes, or simply riding a bike or walking for a couple miles a day. It doesn't have to be high intensity for it to work. In fact low intensity cardio like walking briskly can help with active recovery while also helping to burn some fat.
- Recovery: You can get to a point where you have too much stress and your body is just not able to keep up. Food and sleep are your primary tools to help with recovery. Sometimes you just need a rest from training. The rest can be complete rest from weight training for a week, or it can be working with lighter weights and doing a relative rest. You can schedule these as often as once a month, or infrequently as you feel like you really need it. Just pay attention to the signals your body is giving you. If you are getting the proper nutrition and sleeping 8 hours a day but still feeling lethargic and are unable to think clearly, you need to rest from training for a little bit and let your body catch up.
Hopefully these tips will help you figure out what's going wrong, and fix it. Keep your motivation up, and give yourself more than just one way of tracking progress. You'll find that the progress is happening, but for whatever reason it's not quite the way you were thinking. The body is a very complex system, and every step you take to get a bit stronger and closer to the 10-15% body fat goal (for men, the equivalent for women would be a bit higher), the healthier it will be.