The mechanism by which mice, exposed to the cold, mobilize endogenous or exogenous fuel sources for heat production is unknown. To address this issue we carried out experiments using 3 models of obesity in mice: C57BL/6J+/+ (wild-type B6) mice with variable susceptibility to obesity in response to being fed a high-fat diet (HFD), B6. Ucp1-/- mice with variable diet-induced obesity (DIO) and a deficiency in brown fat thermogenesis and B6. Lep-/- with defects in thermogenesis, fat mobilization and hyperphagia. Mice were exposed to the cold and monitored for changes in food intake and body composition to determine their energy balance phenotype. Upon cold exposure wild-type B6 and Ucp1-/- mice with diet-induced obesity burned endogenous fat in direct proportion to their fat reserves and changes in food intake were inversely related to fat mass, whereas leptin-deficient and lean wild-type B6 mice fed a chow diet depended on increased food intake to fuel thermogenesis. Analysis of gene expression in the hypothalamus to uncover a central regulatory mechanism revealed suppression of the Npvf gene in a manner that depends on the reduced ambient temperature and degree of exposure to the cold, but not on adiposity, leptin levels, food intake or functional brown fat.