This study determined whether targeted metabolomic profiling of serum, using 1H nuclear magnetic resonance, could be employed to distinguish the effects of obesity from those of diet in mice. Following weaning, littermates were randomly divided into two diet groups: chow and high fat. After 12 weeks of dietary manipulation, fat-fed animals were obese and hyperglycaemic. Mice from each treatment either maintained their current diet or switched to the opposite diet for a final week. Differences in metabolite levels were determined using orthogonal projection to latent structures and cross-validated discriminant analysis. The short- and long-term effects of each diet could be clearly distinguished. Short-term diet effects are the major contributor to the metabolic profile, underscoring the need for controls beyond the standard fast before serum collection. This work shows the importance of dietary controls when attempting to isolate obesity-related changes and highlights the ability of metabolomics to identify subtle changes when experiments are properly structured.