For two years, Nicole Richie
has had her fill of rumors about her vanishing figure. "She's tired of everyone saying, 'You don't eat,' because she does," says a source close to her. Yet as her weight continued to drop (in recent weeks it had fallen to around 90 lbs.), the 5'2" Richie—who has steadfastly denied that she has an eating disorder—knew she had to take action. On Oct. 26, two days after talking to her dad, Lionel, Richie announced her decision "to undergo diagnostic treatment to determine why she's not been putting on any weight," says her rep. "I'm focusing on my health right now," Richie told PEOPLE, "and getting the help I need, like anybody else would." For Lionel, who had urged his daughter to seek help, the news came as a relief. "She's gonna be fine," he says. "She's worrying me to death, but she's gonna be okay."
Richie, 25, has sought similar help before, telling Vanity Fair
in June that she was consulting a nutritionist and a doctor about her weight. This time around, the star "is working with a team of doctors and specialists whose focus is nutrition," her rep said, stressing that Richie's treatment "is not for an eating disorder." It's also not in-patient: Only two days after her announcement, Richie was spotted out at the L.A. hot spot Hyde Lounge and on Oct. 30 lunched with a friend at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Even so, producers of her reality series The Simple Life
, which was scheduled to resume production Nov. 6, have agreed to delay shooting until she is fit for duty. (Richie now tells PEOPLE, "I'm ready to go back to work," though the studio has not decided whether to stick to the original schedule.) And she has plenty of other work to look forward to. In addition to The Simple Life
, Richie has a deal with 20th Century Fox TV to star in a sitcom inspired by her life. "She's got great charisma," says Fox TV studio president Dana Walden. "Everyone is always rooting for her."
BEFORE SHE WAS FAMOUS
"I've looked in the mirror every day since I was little," Richie told PEOPLE in 2005, adding that she was "always skinny." Of her appearance then versus now, she said, "I don't think I look any different."