We compared, across several physiological variables, rats most and least susceptible to develop obesity when given a high-fat diet. Afler 4 wk of eating a high-fat diet (60% of calories from fat), rats in the upper (obesity prone, OP) and lower (obesity resistant, OR) quartiles for weight gain were further studied. OP rats ate significantly more than OR rats, but this did not completely explain differences in their susceptibility to dietary obesity. No differences in 24-h energy expenditure were found between groups. OR rats had a significantly lower 24-h respiratory quotient, indicative of a greater relative proportion of fat oxidation and lower plasma levels of free fatty acids (FFA) than OP rats. Thus the ability to avoid dietary obesity produced by a high-fat diet may depend on an ability to increase fat oxidation in response to increased fat intake. Insulin sensitivity, measured by a euglycemic insulin clamp, was significantly higher in OR than OP rats. We cannot determine from these data whether insulin resistance developed as a consequence of elevated FFA levels or whether the ability to oxidize FFA declined as a result of development of insulin resistance. In summary, we propose that rats able to resist becoming obese on a high-fat diet have the ability to adjust the composition of fuel oxidized to the fuel composition of the diet with a minimum increase in body fat. The specific mechanisms by which this occurs are unknown but may be related to effects of diet on insulin sensitivity.