Obesity and its related comorbidities can be detrimental for the affected individual and challenge public health systems worldwide. Currently, the only available treatment options leading to clinically significant and maintained body weight loss and reduction in obesity-related morbidity and mortality are based on surgical interventions. Apart from the 'gold standard' Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB), the vertical sleeve gastrectomy and gastric banding are two frequently performed procedures. This review will discuss animal experiments designed to understand the underlying mechanisms of body weight loss after bariatric surgery. While caloric malabsorption and mechanical restriction are no major factors in this respect, alterations in gut hormone levels are invariably found after RYGB. However, their causal role in RYGB effects on eating and body weight has recently been challenged. Other potential factors contributing to the RYGB effects include increased bile acid concentrations and an altered composition of gut microbiota. RYGB is further associated with remarkable changes in the preference for different dietary components such as a decrease in the preference for high fat or sugar; it is important to note that the contribution of altered food preferences to the RYGB effects on body weight is not clear.