OBJECTIVES: Obesity in humans and mice is associated with elevated levels of two hormones responsive to cellular stress, namely GDF15 and FGF21. Over-expression of each of these is associated with weight loss and beneficial metabolic changes but where they are secreted from and what they are required for physiologically in the context of overfeeding remains unclear. METHODS: Here we used tissue selective knockout mouse models and human transcriptomics to determine the source of circulating GDF15 in obesity. We then generated and characterized the metabolic phenotypes of GDF15/FGF21 double knockout mice. RESULTS: Circulating GDF15 and FGF21 are both largely derived from the liver, rather than adipose tissue or skeletal muscle, in obese states. Combined whole body deletion of FGF21 and GDF15 does not result in any additional weight gain in response to high fat feeding but it does result in significantly greater hepatic steatosis and insulin resistance than that seen in GDF15 single knockout mice. CONCLUSIONS: Collectively the data suggest that overfeeding activates a stress response in the liver which is the major source of systemic rises in GDF15 and FGF21. These hormones then activate pathways which reduce this metabolic stress.