Obligatory thermogenesis is a necessary accompaniment of all metabolic processes involved in maintenance of the body in the living state, and occurs in all organs. It includes energy expenditure involved in ingesting, digesting, and processing food (thermic effect of food (TEF]. At certain life stages extra energy expenditure for growth, pregnancy, or lactation would also be obligatory. Facultative thermogenesis is superimposed on obligatory thermogenesis and can be rapidly switched on and rapidly suppressed by the nervous system. Facultative thermogenesis is important in both thermal balance, in which control of thermoregulatory thermogenesis (shivering in muscle, nonshivering in brown adipose tissue (BAT] balances neural control of heat loss mechanisms, and in energy balance, in which control of facultative thermogenesis (exercise-induced in muscle, diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT) in BAT) balances control of energy intake. Thermal balance (i.e., body temperature) is much more stringently controlled than energy balance (i.e., body energy stores). Reduced energy expenditure for thermogenesis is important in two types of obesity in laboratory animals. In the first type, deficient DIT in BAT is a prominent feature of altered energy balance. It may or may not be associated with hyperphagia. In a second type, reduced cold-induced thermogenesis in BAT as well as in other organs is a prominent feature of altered thermal balance. This in turn results in altered energy balance and obesity, exacerbated in some examples by hyperphagia. In some of the hyperphagic obese animals it is likely that the exaggerated obligatory thermic effect of food so alters thermal balance that BAT thermogenesis is suppressed. In all obese animals, deficient hypothalamic control of facultative thermogenesis and (or) food intake is implicated.