Nicole Richie Happy & Healthy

updated 10/22/2007 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/22/2007 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Nicole Richie and Joel Madden needed a little R&R after flying halfway around the world for his band's tour. So after a quick visit to Stephanies Spa Retreat at the Sofitel in Brisbane, Australia (a massage for him, a manicure-pedicure for her), on Oct. 8, the two lounged by the pool, cuddling and listening to music. At one point, Madden lovingly held his earphone to Richie's ever-rounder pregnant belly. "They looked very happy," says a spa employee, "just a loving couple on holiday."

Hard to imagine that less than a year ago Richie seemed to be on the edge of disaster: arrested last December for driving under the influence of pot and Vicodin, and dogged by speculation about her alarming weight loss. Friends credit rocker Madden, 28, whom Richie started dating shortly before her arrest, with giving her the support she needed to get healthy—and pregnancy with keeping her determined to stay that way. Since they became parents-to-be, Madden tells People, "We're different people already. It's a whole new world."

Now about six months pregnant, Richie, 26, "is taking very good care of her body," says a friend. "She is not smoking, not drinking, not taking any medication, eating healthy. She's in a good place, and everyone is happy to see that." Her transformation began soon after she and Madden got together. "She wanted to be sober on her own, but he definitely contributed," says a Madden friend. "If someone loves someone else, they're not going to let the other person hurt themselves." (Contrary to a tabloid report, Richie, who underwent rehab after an arrest for heroin possession in 2003, is not in outpatient rehab, says a source close to her, but she is in a court-ordered alcohol education program.)

Instead of late nights out, Madden now often cooks for Richie at their Glendale, Calif., home, or they take out health food from Real Food Daily. Still, Madden has managed to gain sympathy pounds: "They eat a lot! Joel's friends were teasing him about his belly," says the pal. As for a wedding, the two "haven't even really started planning," adds another. "They're just focused on the baby."

Madden is proud of Richie's new life. "Everyone has preconceived ideas [about her]—my friends are guilty as well—but they're blown away," he says. "She's the coolest girl on the planet."

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