Excess adipose fat accumulation, or obesity, is a growing problem worldwide in terms of both the rate of incidence and the severity of obesity-associated metabolic disease. Adipose tissue evolved in animals as a specialized dynamic lipid storage depot: adipose cells synthesize fat (a process called lipogenesis) when energy is plentiful and mobilize stored fat (a process called lipolysis) when energy is needed. When a disruption of lipid homeostasis favors increased fat synthesis and storage with little turnover owing to genetic predisposition, overnutrition or sedentary living, complications such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease are more likely to arise. The vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster (Diptera: Drosophilidae) is used as a model to better understand the mechanisms governing fat metabolism and distribution. Flies offer a wealth of paradigms with which to study the regulation and physiological effects of fat accumulation. Obese flies accumulate triacylglycerols in the fat body, an organ similar to mammalian adipose tissue, which specializes in lipid storage and catabolism. Discoveries in Drosophila have ranged from endocrine hormones that control obesity to subcellular mechanisms that regulate lipogenesis and lipolysis, many of which are evolutionarily conserved. Furthermore, obese flies exhibit pathophysiological complications, including hyperglycemia, reduced longevity and cardiovascular function - similar to those observed in obese humans. Here, we review some of the salient features of the fly that enable researchers to study the contributions of feeding, absorption, distribution and the metabolism of lipids to systemic physiology.