Although obesity rates are rapidly rising, caloric restriction remains one of the few safe therapies. Here we tested the hypothesis that obesity-associated disorders are caused by increased adipose tissue as opposed to excess dietary lipids. Fat mass (FM) of lean C57B6 mice fed a high-fat diet (HFD; FMC mice) was "clamped" to match the FM of mice maintained on a low-fat diet (standard diet [SD] mice). FMC mice displayed improved glucose and insulin tolerance as compared with ad libitum HFD mice (P < 0.001) or SD mice (P < 0.05). These improvements were associated with fewer signs of inflammation, consistent with the less-impaired metabolism. In follow-up studies, diet-induced obese mice were food restricted for 5 weeks to achieve FM levels identical with those of age-matched SD mice. Previously, obese mice exhibited improved glucose and insulin tolerance but showed markedly increased fasting-induced hyperphagia (P < 0.001). When mice were given ad libitum access to the HFD, the hyperphagia of these mice led to accelerated body weight gain as compared with otherwise matched controls without a history of obesity. These results suggest that although caloric restriction on a HFD provides metabolic benefits, maintaining those benefits may require lifelong continuation, at least in individuals with a history of obesity.